HARWICH — For the past 14 months, residents have been engaged in single-stream recycling at the town’s transfer station, but that is about to change. DPW Director Lincoln Hooper announced that as of June 15 the town will once again require that recyclables be sorted separately.
Hooper said that with the COVID-19 pandemic, towns were directed to transition to the single-stream collection of recyclables to reduce the time people spent at the recycling center. The town received funding through the federal CARES Act to cover the cost of single-stream recycling. But with the state of emergency coming to an end, he does not anticipate that the funding will continue, and it’s time to return to the recycling different items separately.
The single-stream model worked well, but it also cost $105 per ton to have the vendor separate various recycled materials. The separated model the town has used for years yields revenue.
“It’s either you separate it, or you pay somebody else to separate it,” Hooper said.
Over the past year single-stream recycling cost $110,000, while the town was losing $50,000 in market revenue. He said that when the town adopted the single-stream approach, it was advertised as a temporary measure in response to the pandemic.
Last week selectmen approved the return to the separated recycling model on June 15. After that, residents must separate material into different containers for recycling. Hooper said that there are six different categories for recycling: number two plastic, all other plastic, corrugated cardboard, newspaper, junk mail and glass.
It is a good time to return to separated recycling, he said, because the commodities market is coming back. China's cutting back on its acceptance of recycled materials has pushed domestic mills to start up again. The price of plastic is on the rise, newspaper is coming back, and light iron is hitting near record value at $260 per ton, he said. The market is cyclical, jumping up and down in price all the time, he added.
Hooper said that the state Department of Environmental Protection mandates recycling in Massachusetts, and on a good year the town can generate $150,000 in revenue, which will offset the town’s operation costs.
There have been numerous inquiries from people wanting to know if the Treasure Chest swap shop will be opening again, he said, but that decision will be up to the selectmen. Hooper said that his department can use the space, if the decision is made not to reconstitute the Treasure Chest.
The annual household hazardous waste collection returned in May, Hooper said, and will continue on the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon at the recycling center. The Harwich collection site also serves Chatham and Brewster residents.