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Laconia ends glass recycling, citing cost

Union Leader Correspondent

May 16. 2018 9:59PM
This sign instructing residents to throw away glass is on the counter at the Hooksett Transfer Station, which did away with glass recycling earlier this year. Laconia will soon follow suit and stop recycling glass. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

LACONIA — The City on the Lakes will soon join other communities in the state in doing what residents had previously been taught was unthinkable — sending all glass to a landfill.

With the recent closing of the last glass recycling facility in the Northeast and China’s 2017 moratorium on importing recyclables, there is no market for bottles and jars, Public Works Director Wes Anderson told city councilors Monday. The city is paying its contractor $113.31 a ton to recycle glass; throwing away glass will mean a savings of nearly $30 a ton, he said.

Councilors voted unanimously Monday to adopt his recommendation to eliminate collecting recyclables delivered to remote sites by residents and to halt recycling glass, a move expected to save $75,000 annually.

The city’s three remote collection sites will phase out accepting mixed recyclables over the next four to six weeks. The collection sites at the Weirs Community Center and on Lindsay Court will be closed. The collection center at the Public Works garage on Messer Street will remain open, but will only accept corrugated cardboard boxes that have been flattened.

The city will continue its curbside recycling pickup, and residents can still put corrugated cardboard and glass into their bins and it will be collected, City Manager Scott Myers said.

Laconia is a member of the Concord Regional Solid Waste Recovery Cooperative, which operates a waste-to-energy incinerator fueled by trash from 17 communities.

The city’s current solid waste disposal budget is $1,722,441, and Myers is recommending it be increased to $1,902,242.

Laconia contracts curbside solid waste/recycling collection with Casella. It has a separate agreement with Waste Management of New Hampshire to operate the transfer station at 385 Meredith Center Road.

Under its prior waste disposal contract, Laconia did not have to pay anything for processing recyclables, Anderson said. But when the value of such materials bottomed out, he said, the city’s collection contractor declined to extend the contract.

As a result, last year the city issued a request for proposals for solid waste collecting services. All firms submitted proposals for transporting, sorting and selling recyclables based on the value of the various materials.

Anderson said this means the city’s costs fluctuate monthly based on the commodity value.

For example, in March the cost for processing recyclables was $102.57 per ton. The per-ton cost for sending waste to the incinerator was $83.25 — a $19.32 cost savings to burn versus recycle.

“Glass is trash” is the phrase the city will be promoting to encourage residents to dispose of all glass.

Mayor Ed Engler said when transportation is factored in, the city creates less of a carbon footprint by putting the glass in a landfill rather than hauling it long distances to find someone willing to take it.

Anne Saltmarsh, the city’s solid waste coordinator, lamented the fact that the city has gone from 200 to 2000 tons of recyclables, and now must take a step back.

I’m devastated by it,” she said. “We can’t ruin the earth for our grandchildren. But I get the money thing.”

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