HOOKSETT — As of Wednesday night, the town of Hooksett has eliminated all single-stream recycling.
In response to concerns about the ballooning cost of recycling voiced by officials from the town’s Recycling and Transfer Station Advisory Committee, the Town Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to end single-stream recycling of mixed materials dropped off at the town transfer station.
The station will still recycle aluminum cans, tin cans and cardboard, but those materials must be dropped off at the transfer station and separated into respective piles.
According to Director of Public Works Earl Labonte, single-stream recycling costs the town $133 per ton compared to just $72 per ton to process trash.
The price increase of single-stream recycling is driven in large part by paper and plastic contamination standards set in 2017 by China, the world’s largest purchaser of recycled materials.
To adapt to the rising costs, Hooksett discontinued curbside pickup of single-stream recycling last year, a fact that Labonte cited when laying out the costs of the program for the council.
“We had a look at what it cost us to do single-stream recycling,” said Labonte. “Prior to the discontinuation of (curbside) single-stream recycling, it cost us $53,000 for what we processed from January to July. If we had processed it as trash only at the current price, we would have saved $13,000 in that six-month period.”
Since the end of curbside pickup, Labonte stated that the town has processed 36 tons of single-stream recycling at a cost of $4,336. For reference, Labonte told the council that it would have cost just $2,285 to process the same amount as trash.
The sticker shock of the price difference took a few councilors by surprise.
“It’s doing the right thing,” said Councilor Robert Duhaime of single-stream recycling. “A cleaner, nicer environment and what we’re gonna hand our kids years from now. It’s a nice thing to do … but to double the price to do the right thing, well that’s a little hard to swallow.”
Councilor David Ross agreed, saying that single-stream recycling amounted to the town “throwing money away”, and adding that he had always thought it was a bad idea.
“Recycling only works with wood and metal products — nothing else. We create more damage to the environment by recycling it,” said Ross.
Labonte says the single-stream recycling bin will remain at the transfer station for residents who want to stay in the practice of dropping off their mixed recyclables, but he cautioned that all of the bin’s contents would be processed as trash.