Everybody seems to love Single Stream Recycling. It’s so easy: all recyclables in one container and trash (non-recyclables) down the hopper. Sorting plants did all the work and there was a strong market for plastics, mixed paper, aluminum cans, etc. Andover’s rate of recycling increased when Single Stream went into effect 3 years ago and we were able to take fewer trips with our trash to the Incinerator in Penacook.
Suddenly, with China closing its doors to 40% of the nation’s recyclables, everything is changing. The cost for disposing of Andover’s Single Stream recyclables went up from $47 a ton a year ago in March, to over $130 a ton in April this year. But that’s not the only change for us here in New England. Five of the landfills that receive trash will be closing down in the next five years. Many towns will be scrambling to find new destinations for their trash and the costs will go up for everyone.
What can we do here in Andover as we face these increasing costs? Fortunately, we already have several things in place to help us. We are members of the Concord Regional Solid Waste/ Resource Recovery Cooperative, sending our trash to the incinerator in Penacook, which in turn creates electricity, which is then sold to the grid. Our current contract will take us to 2022, and we pay $68 a ton for tipping (does not include the transportation cost). This is a lot less than many towns pay to dispose of their trash.
Recycling is where we will have to make changes. Materials will need to be sorted, as we were doing four years ago. We are looking into purchasing one or two balers, as the market requires baled commodities for any value to be returned to the town. We may also need to build a simple storage building to store the bales until they can be shipped out.
There is currently no market for recycled glass, but once again Andover is in a good position. We are able to send our glass to New London for $30 a ton. New London contracts to have the glass crushed and some of it is used in sidewalk and roadbeds during construction and they are able to sell the rest.
The thirty-yard compactor that is used for Single Stream Recycling can be used for overflow when the trash trailer is full. Having two trash compactors will allow us to send out full containers each time, increasing efficiency and reducing cost.
Why did we get rid of the balers we had? The two balers had been purchased used to begin with and we got years of good use from them. After many repairs, they were no longer safe to use and they were sold. Around this time, there was a plan to build a single stream recycling sorting plant next to the incinerator in Penacook. The town decided to sell the two balers and purchase the compactor and to begin the single stream recycling program. The idea was to try it for three years and then reassess, knowing we would be able to make use of the second compactor for trash or recycling. Well, the recycling sorting plant never happened and four years later we have China.
These are big changes, and to make sure we do the best we can, Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA) will be helping us with design and equipment issues. NRRA currently takes most of our recyclables and they have many resources available to us including grant information, classes, regular meetings on commodity market value, and help to towns. We will be meeting with representatives from NRRA some time in June.