“If there’s any good that has come out of this, it has given the consumers an opportunity to look at their lifestyles.”

Dave McNally, Pine Tree Waste

LEWISTON — Statewide waste management sites are seeing a decline in revenue resulting from the current economic slump.

In accordance with the recent national report by ABC news that Americans are throwing out less and conserving more, Maine has seen a substantial decrease of trash in the waste stream.

Joe Kazar, executive director of Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp., speculated that the national decline in waste being thrown out could be attributed to businesses producing fewer goods and consumers being more careful about what they buy.

“If people are more careful about their purchases, they’re throwing out less,” Kazar said.

MMWAC, a corporation owned by 12 local municipalities, is no exception, Kazar said. Although MMWAC has no plan to lay off workers, the corporation is cutting back on costs due to an 8 percent decrease in revenue during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008.

The company, located in Auburn, takes in and burns residential, commercial and construction waste. Revenue from residential waste, measured by tonnage, has taken an 8-10 percent hit, Kazar said. Recycling at the site has seen a 12 percent decrease in tonnage during the same period.

“If less trash is coming in, less metal will be on the tail end to recycle,” Kazar said.

The price of recyclable metals, sold by Maine’s waste-management sites, has also decreased. MMWAC, Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., Maine Energy Recovery Co. and ecomaine all confirmed that the price of metal has significantly decreased.

Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., the state’s largest waste-management site, representing about 200 municipalities, conceded that although it had not seen a decrease in revenue, the company has been forced to go elsewhere to find trash to replace its lost revenue from Maine municipalities.

PERC comptroller Gary Stacey estimated that the amount of trash generated from Maine municipalities has decreased by 10 percent.

Ken Robbins, general manager for Maine Energy Recovery Co. agreed, conceding that MERC must go out further to collect the same amount of waste.

Waste management in Southern Maine has also felt the effect of the slumping economy. Kevin Roche, general manager for ecomaine, a corporation consisting of a waste-to-energy plant, a recycling facility and a landfill, noted that people are recycling more and throwing away less. In terms of tonnage, the corporation owned by 21 municipalities has experienced a 5 percent decrease from residential waste and a 17 percent decrease in commercial waste from industries and businesses.

Roche speculates that waste decline may be a direct consequence of companies packaging their products in a less bulky manner. Overall tonnage consisting of recyclable products and waste products has remained consistent, Roche said, but the dollar value generated from each ton of trash has gone down. He insisted that the decreased revenue would not cost jobs at the facility.

In Lewiston, Solid Waste Division Superintendent Rob Stalford said the facility had “observed a notable yet small decrease,” in revenue. The limited amount of solid municipal waste the center receives will drop from 12,100 tons in fiscal year 2008 to an estimated 11,400 tons in fiscal year 2009. Bulky waste and the amount of ash they receive from MMWAC will also decrease slightly.

“It’s within normal fluctuations,” Stalford said, adding that the decline would have no effect on operations and no jobs at the facility would be lost.

While jobs at large management sites are secure for the moment, Pine Tree Waste, a small local division under Casella Waste Systems, is not as fortunate.

According to Operations Manager Dave McNally, one worker has been laid off, and due to a 14 percent decrease in available working hours, another has resigned. He estimated that the division has seen a 5 percent decrease in recycling and an 8 percent decrease in household trash in the past year. Because people cannot afford to have their trash hauled as often, a heavier amount is being hauled less frequently, which decreases the available working hours for employees, McNally said.

He was optimistic that the worst is over for Pine Tree Waste and speculated that the weak economy may help people realize how they could consume less and produce less waste.

“If there’s any good that has come out of this, it has given the consumers an opportunity to look at their lifestyles,” he said.


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