April 2006

Regional Waste Systems conducts recycling study

Portland, ME— The state-of-the-art technology that eliminates the need to separate recyclables into categories has already proven its effectiveness in other parts of the country, but before it can come to Maine, it needed to be tested on a small, rural community. Regional Waste Systems’ (RWS) Recycling Committee has been studying the applicability of “single stream” recycling for more than a year and created a pilot project for that purpose. The Town of Lyman, an RWS owner-community with a population of just 3,909, became the test-site.

It was already known from nationwide studies that larger communities with curbside pick-up service increased their recycling percentages almost automatically with single stream technology. These same studies also show an increase in collection and transportation efficiencies and corresponding reductions in costs, which were borne out by a pilot project conducted by the City of Portland last summer. The Portland trial period of six weeks identified a potential savings from improved collection efficiencies by 24 percent. The remaining question was this: Will people in small towns, who have to bring their own trash and recyclables to a transfer station, also benefit from single stream technology?

On December 13, 2005, people who arrived at the Lyman Transfer Station were instructed to throw all their recyclables in a single container, rather than into separate sections for plastic, paper, and metal. Instead of using the “silver bullet” container, all recyclables were thrown into one of the Town’s compactors, and all trash was thrown into the other.

Linda Boudreau, RWS director and recycling committee chair, said, “The experiment continued through January 10, 2006 and, because of compaction alone, Lyman collected more than three times* the usual recycling load before having to pay for transport to the recycling facility in Portland. Therefore, there would be a reduction in the number of trips per year from 81 to 24 and, at a charge by haulers of $125 per trip, the town could potentially save $7,125 annually.”

A town with results similar to Lyman’s could recoup the cost of its compactor in approximately 18 months.

*Silver bullet loads averaged 2.53 tons each; compacted loads averaged 8.23 tons each.


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