Kennebunkport is considering its options for a new recycling program after the one in place was halted late last summer due to financial issues. Dan King Photo

KENNEBUNKPORT — The town’s Solid Waste Committee has recommended that the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen re-institute curbside recycling.

The committee looked at a couple of options, like curbside pick-up, establishment of a recycling center where residents and visitors would be expected to deliver the materials to be recycled, and costs associated with single stream (unsorted) versus sorted at a recycling center

In the end they recommended curbside single stream, because they felt the program was the most flexible if changes had to be made, said committee Chair Jon Dykstra, and because many of Kennebunkport’s residents are of an age where getting to a recycling center could be difficult.

The town scrapped recycling at the end of August after costs increased.

“We were caught off-guard,” said Selectmen’s Board Chair Allen Daggett. “We didn’t pull it; we didn’t have the money in the budget to pay for it.”

Daggett was speaking at the Jan. 9 Selectmen’s Board meeting during a discussion of the recycling issue following the presentation by the Solid Waste Committee.

The committee has been looking into the matter for several months.

“This is not an easy choice, it is not a chocolate or vanilla choice,” said Dykstra. He said recycling markets are rapidly changing and that recycling is a national issue.

Municipalities across Maine — and across the country – found themselves struggling with their recycling programs after countries like China halted acceptance of U.S recycling materials because it contained too many contaminants, like plastic bags and the like. Other countries that did accept recycling materials from the U.S. got much stricter, for the same reasons. Some York County municipalities, which had been able to dispose of recycled material for free at Ecomaine — though they had to pay to get it there — learned as their recycling contracts expired that new contracts would come with a per ton fee of $65 attached. Some communities faced fines for the amount of contaminants in their recycled material as markets plummeted and Ecomaine found itself in the position of having to pay to get rid of the recycled material.

Costs for the programs considered by the Solid Waste Committee were similar for the first year.

Based on the 400 tons of material Kennebunkport recycled in 2018, curbside recycling is expected to cost $172,000 in the first year; recycling center single stream at $171,000 and $160,000 for recycling center sorted. The recycling center option for single stream included first year site preparation and a compactor for cardboard; costs associated with hauling the recycled material to Ecomaine and the tipping fee to dispose of it, plus an increase in trash disposal costs, because the committee felt fewer people would recycle at a center. The fee was expected to decrease to $116,000 annually in the second year, without the one-time capital costs. The unsorted option would decrease to $91,000 in the second year and years following because capital costs would not be required.

The curbside option works out to about $56.58 per year, per household, Dykstra said.

Some selectmen voiced concerns about how or if the community’s substantial number of summer renters would comply with recycling programs.

Dykstra said he did not think summer residents or visitors would take recycling materials to a center but would merely put it in the trash.

He noted education is the key to success for full-time residents and for visitors, and that educational material would be distributed to landlords for their tenants.

He told selectmen that Ecomaine’s three-person education department supplies videos news releases, stickers and other material and coordinates with a summer intern and schools to help promote recycling. A big “kick-off” day would be planned if the board votes to adopt a recycling program.

Selectman Michael Weston noted that 40 percent of Kennebunkport residents are over 65 years old and many are over 75 years old, and those who speak to him say they want curbside because it is more difficult for them to get to a recycling center.

“Curbside is familiar and convenient and will get the most recyclables and has the most flexibility to respond to changing markets,” said Dykstra. But he also noted it carries the greater challenge of keeping contamination levels low.

David James, of the Kennebunkport Residents Association, said the group has had “hundreds of emails” asking why a town as wealthy as Kennebunkport cannot come up with a recycling plan.

“I encourage you to move forward on this thing,” said James who advocates the curbside option.

Selectman Ed Hutchins said when recycling returns to Kennebunkport, he wants it to be a model for other communities.

No vote was taken at the Jan. 9 meeting and it was unclear when a decision  may be made.

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