Celebrating 20-years of recycling, Sandy River faces new challenges

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FARMINGTON — In the midst of celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Sandy River Recycling Association faces some hefty challenges, ones that raise the question “what can we do that we haven’t been doing?”

As SRRA board members appeared before Farmington selectmen recently, that was just one of the questions they want to ask some member towns served by the association.

Bringing the good news first, Board President Jo Josephson of Temple, noted the 20th anniversary and the recent addition of a Web site for the organization, www.sandyriverrecycling.org, created by  Mt. Blue High School student Allie Chretien with help from teacher Regina Voter.

The association formed in 1990 in response to the state’s first Solid Waste Management Law passed in 1989 with a goal of recycling 25 percent of municipal waste, according to the SRRA Web site.

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The role of the local non-profit, with 21 member towns and plantations, is to collect, process and market recyclable waste of the member towns. A facility in Farmington picks up and handles material from transfer stations of member towns. Owned by the towns, it’s governed by town representatives who serve on the board of directors and SRRA manager, Ron Slater.

The success of earlier years “started to slide the last few years,” Josephson said as she and association treasurer Richard Doughty of Weld, board member Denis Castonguay representing Farmington and Slater met with the Farmington board.

The state of the economy isn’t the only factor affecting the organization. A loss of recycling tonnage to private haulers such as Archie’s operation in Farmington and whether people have gotten out of the habit of recycling may have contributed, board members suggested.

During a five-year period from 2004 to 2009, recyclables from Farmington decreased by more than 400-tons, representing an overall reduction of 45 percent, Josephson said. Wilton figures represent a 28 percent reduction and other towns came in at single-digit percent reductions.

The combination of reasons means the 1,202 tons of material recycled for 2009 is down over 400-tons from 2008 with the organization realizing a net loss of over $124,000 during 2009, as noted in the board’s report.

“At a cost of $183 per ton (to handle), we’re only taking in $124 per ton (in revenue and town allocations). It amounts to a $73,000 shortfall this year. It’s not sustainable,” Doughty told the board. “It’s not dire, we’re not broke but we need to find a way through it.”

Past successes have meant a capital fund reserve account that allowed purchase of new equipment outright and keeping the cost to towns low, Doughty said.

The changes affect the member towns that make up about a quarter of the association’s budget. Depending on the tonnage processed, member towns have been assessed $45 a ton for 2010, up from $35 a ton.

Now the board is looking for ways to increase revenue, asking town leaders what more it can do, and looking at ways to cut expenses including possibly reducing the four-member staff.

Increase revenue but don’t decrease employees, audience member, Tom Eastler, said to the board. There are now only four employees handling the waste of 30,000 people throughout the member towns, he said.

The impact of private enterprise was also discussed as Selectman Jon Bubier suggested that maybe Farmington hasn’t reduced its amount of recycling, “it’s just not going to your (facility),” he said.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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