I’m writing this follow up letter on the eve of the new Gilford Solid Waste Center’s opening.
After my last letter, Town Administrator Scott Dunn found my email address and sent me a sheaf of material on the subject. Unfortunately, I feel that I understand the situation even less now.
Mr. Dunn confirmed my statement that recycling will be mandatory for users of the new Center for which we already voted on and paid $1.3 million. People who use a commercial hauler will still be paying for the Center. Speaking of money, why did he say that we’ll be making debt payments through 2027? Did the appropriated funds not actually cover the costs? He also noted the votes for and against the two measures as if popularity confers reasonableness. (A side note: more people voted against the second measure than the first.)
Mr. Dunn also notes that there will be a “savings” of $202k in the first year. That is only because the FY 2020 solid waste budget was reduced. Wow. We could save more in other departments by simply reducing the budget in those areas. As it now costs Gilford $95 per ton for trash removal and $235 per ton for “recyclables”, easy savings would be realized by putting everything in the trash. Boom! Done.
As I said back in 2005 when I first heard about it, single stream recycling is a waste of effort and resources. A recent Wall Street Journal article that outlined the path of single stream materials noted that the sorting was done overseas (with cheap labor). The piece also reinforced that soiled materials can’t be used, which seems to be the source of foreign countries no longer accepting our items. As I see in area recycling bins, people throw in all sorts of incorrect items. I suspect that they truly believe that they’re doing something useful.
I haven’t seen it shown that post-consumer recycling is cost-effective or that we are running out of landfill space. The new Center will be open 1 less day than before, increasing the inconvenience. The old single stream bins could, with conscientious parking, accommodate 3 vehicles at once. The new Center is a straight line which doesn’t bode well for a smooth operation. I am skeptical of anyone’s ability to predict the future market for recyclables, and yet we’re charging ahead. The planning for this Center started in 2015 and it illustrates one of the problems with central planning: the time line is too long for responsive action.
If there really is some sort of cost offset for properly sorted materials, then the recycling should be voluntary, not mandatory, as that would reduce the costs to the taxpayers of Gilford. If it remains mandatory, I predict that commercial haulers will see an increase in their customer base.
BY Rick Notkin