LEWISTON — Casella Solid Waste would build a $4 million facility at the Lewiston landfill on River Road to sort recyclable materials, according to a plan presented to the City Council on Monday.
According to the plan, the 15,000-square-foot facility would take unsorted recyclables from around Maine and mechanically sort them for sale on the commodities market.
"There would be no more five-sort and into the truck or two-bin sorting," Bobby Cappadona, vice president for recycling at Casella, said. "It's all picked up in one bin, and into the truck."
According to the company's presentation, Casella would sign a 30-year lease with the city to take over the recycling transfer station and would construct the automated sorting facility. The company would pay the city to lease the land as well as property taxes and would employ 25 people upon opening.
The facility would process 20,000 to 25,000 tons of recycling per year, brought in by 10 trucks per day from around the state. Another five trucks daily would deliver the sorted recycling to buyers.
City Administrator Ed Barrett said the company approached the city last winter, but Tuesday's presentation was the first public discussion.
"Before we got very far into this process, we thought it would be appropriate to ask representatives from Casella to make a presentation to you so we could begin to discuss if this is something the city even wants," Barrett said.
Councilors said they wanted to hear more and would discuss it again Aug. 14.
"I love the idea," Councilor John Butler said. "It's something that would increase recycling, add employment and pay property taxes and use the transfer station. I look at it as a win-win-win."
Lewiston's recyclables currently are collected curbside by Almighty Waste and taken to the city recycling transfer station at the Lewiston landfill, where they are loaded into 100-ton bins. Casella ships those bins to its Charleston, Mass., plant for processing. Lewiston and Casella split the proceeds of the sale.
The Lewiston facility would be similar to the one in Charleston, but smaller.
"The Lewiston area offers significant recycling growth, as well as becoming a recycling hub for other Maine communities," Brian Oliver, Casella vice president, said. "There is a lot of potential volume in this area. When we look at where the opportunity for us to capture recycling is, it's basically between Portland and Bangor, the southern-central area. It's a perfect site, access-wise."
Councilor Mark Cayer said there may be some lingering resentment in the community against the company and a controversial 2006 deal that would have given Casella management over the landfill. Fearing the landfill would become a magnet for out-of-state trash collections, councilors killed the deal in 2007.
"I personally have not heard a lot of bad things about Casella," Cayer said. "I think you guys are a force in the state that does provide economic value and employment. But any major company has to face issues."
Oliver said the company believes it has a good working relationship with other communities in Maine.
"We have upwards of 75 municipal contracts in Maine, whether they are transfer stations, curbside agreements, landfills, recycling," Oliver said. "You don't get to that critical mass doing a bad job. I think our company does a good job in this arena. I think we give great service and have generally good relationships."