Soaring costs push Maine town to pull plug on recycling program

Man holding recycling bin with bottles (Thinkstock)

GOULDSBORO (BDN) -- Skyrocketing costs for recycling have prompted the town of Gouldsboro to pull the plug on its curbside pickup program, according to a town official.

As of Sept. 1, residents who want to get rid of plastic, cardboard, paper and other recyclable materials will have to put it in with their regular household trash.

Since China adopted restrictions on importing recycling materials, the market for it has shrunk considerably, making it hard to find buyers, said Sherri Cox, the town manager. Casella Waste Systems, which the town uses for zero-sort curbside pickup, will not offer curbside pickup contracts for a set price because of the volatility of the recycling market, she said.

Since last November, the price charged to the town for recycling has gone from $45 per ton to $140 per ton, and that it is expected to keep increasing, Cox said.

“I was told it could go up over $200 by the end of the year,” Cox said. “We’ve only budgeted $80,000 [for recycling through June 2019].”

To help ease the pain of ending the recycling program, which is expected to produce more trash to be hauled away as solid waste, the town is lowering the cost of its trash stickers from $1.50 apiece to $1.25, according to Cox.

In the meantime, she said the town is considering whether to place a large bin for a burnables at the transfer station. Residents can also make their own arrangements with a private hauler, she said.

“It’s a bummer,” Cox said of canceling the town-funded program. “Without being able to budget for the cost, it’s impossible to do.”

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