A meeting about the future of Bowdoinham’s Recycling Barn got heated Tuesday night when some members of the Select Board cast doubt on the owner’s plans for a new hybrid recycling model and upgrades to the gift shop.

Looking for ways to save the town money, owner David Berry proposed a new recycling program — part single-stream and part source-separated — to accommodate both preferences among residents, he said. Single-stream users would pay a fee between $1.50 and $2 per 30 gallons of material. Berry said this fee is similar to the one residents currently pay for trash removal based on volume.

Following a citizen’s petition, Bowdoinham residents voted 131-116 at a June town meeting in favor of negotiating a lease for the Recycling Barn. Prior to 2020, Bowdoinham had leased the Recycling Barn for 30 years, until the Select Board voted to move operations to Public Works after officials raised concerns about the safety of the building. Berry has since completed repairs suggested by the state fire marshal.

Select Board member Mark Favreau and Chairperson Peter Lewis argued the town did not vote to move recycling operations back to the barn but instead to “negotiate a potential” lease with Berry. Board members insinuated that recycling operations could still potentially be moved to a new Public Works building, depending on the results of a study being conducted by the consulting firm Barton & Logudice.

Will single-stream or source-separated recycling cost the town more?

Berry said whether the town chooses to lease the barn or go with Public Works, single-stream recycling is a financial burden for the town.

“The hybrid recycling proposal would save taxpayers $33,000 per year,” Berry said. “It could be done in any location with enough space for storage, handling and baling of clean, sorted materials as well as a silver-bullet dumpster for those who prefer to pay for someone else to sort.”


He said the single-stream system currently costs $500 per ton to dispose of, but if residents sort their own recyclables, the town can make money by reselling desirable materials like cardboard and plastic.

Favreau claimed Berry’s figures were wrong and his idea for hybrid recycling is “nothing new.” He said Berry has flooded the community with “misinformation.” Favreau said it costs $93 per ton, with a $145 handling fee, plus a monthly $360 dumpster pickup fee to remove single-stream materials — a total of $508.

Favreau also disagreed that source-separated recycling would make the town money.

“The only item that makes a profit is the baled news, which is way down. Everyone’s gone electronic,” Favreau said.

Berry disagreed and claimed he retrieved current market values on recyclables from Victor Horton, the executive director of the Maine Resource Recovery Association.

Horton said there is money to be made by pre-sorting recyclables. He said the current market would offer $40 for one ton of cardboard, $70 for one ton of steel cans and $1,100 for one ton of milk jugs. He said the market value for sorted recyclables waxes and wanes but that it is always an option to hold onto materials for an extra month and wait for the best price.


Horton said single-stream recycling may be convenient for the public but can be costly. To dispose of one ton of mixed plastics like laundry detergent containers and milk jugs roughly costs $150.

Horton said starting a source-separated facility “from scratch” would be a significant investment, but if a structure like the Recycling Barn already exists and is set up for pre-sorting, it “shouldn’t be too hard.”

Board member Allen Acker spoke in support of Berry’s plan and said he felt Favreau and Lewis were being disrespectful. Acker pointed out that Berry ran a “successful” recycling facility in Bowdoinham for 30 years.

Regardless of pushback from town officials, Berry said he plans to present a newly drafted lease agreement to the board and hopes they will sign.

Berry said if the town decides to lease the barn, it will be ready for operations in June.

Grant proposal

Berry also presented a $16,000 grant proposal to the board for upgrades to the gift shop located behind the Recycling Barn. Berry asked for the board’s support.


Bowdoinham resident Lisa Wesel said the gift shop has become essential to the community.

“The gift shop has become an important resource for the people of Bowdoinham and surrounding communities as a way to repurpose usable items,” Wesel said. “It is powered 100% by volunteers.”

Gift shop volunteer Karen Mayo noted that 30-50 people come into the gift shop each Saturday looking for slightly used goods that might otherwise be trash. Mayo said in addition to helping those in need, the program keeps excess materials out of the waste stream.

Lewis challenged Mayo and said they received a request from her team to dispose of trash in their silver-bullet dumpsters. Mayo said they have two volunteers who offer to take a bag of trash from them each week, which is mostly paper goods. She said excess items are donated to other programs like Goodwill or Preble Street.

Acker attempted to make a motion to support upgrades to the gift shop, but Lewis said it was a discussion item and would not accept any motions.

Favreau said he would not support Berry’s grant proposal, claiming these upgrades would be made to a building the town may not use in the future.

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