Jobs on the line if recycling goes single-stream

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Amanda Johnson photo A HEAVY DUTY—Norway/Paris Transfer Station worker Brett Leighton uses a forklift to pick up heavy compacted pieces of paper and stack them on to a 20-foot pile.
Amanda Johnson photo
A HEAVY DUTY—Norway/Paris Transfer Station worker Brett Leighton uses a forklift to pick up heavy compacted pieces of paper and stack them on to a 20-foot pile.

By Amanda Johnson

NORWAY/PARIS—If Norway and Paris chooses to jump on the single-stream recycling bandwagon, three employees that separate the recycling will lose their jobs.

A single-stream recycling program introduced by Oxford County Regional Recycling will be starting at the beginning of 2015. Norway has not made any decision yet as to whether or not it wishes to implement the new method, said transfer station employee Warren Sessions, who is also a member of the Norway Selectboard.

If the transfer station owned by Norway and Paris goes single-stream, it means that all paper, plastic, metal and other recyclable materials are put all together into one recycling truck without being sorted.

The Norway Selectboard received a letter in April from the Oxford County Regional Recycling board member Stephen Bies, notifying them that on April 9 of this year, the board voted to authorize planning for single-stream recycling. The recycling will begin on Jan. 1, 2015, for any of its 17 member towns that wish to join. According to Sessions, who works at the transfer station, Woodstock, Livermore and Greenwood are three towns that are on board with going single-stream and will be in the beginning stages possibly as soon as September of this year.

The Oxford County Regional Recycling covers 17 towns in Oxford County, with towns such as Woodstock, Hebron, Paris and Norway.

In his letter, Bies promised that normal pick-ups will be scheduled for the recycling and that it would all be compacted and sent to a single-stream recycling facility in either Saco or Auburn.

The Norway-Paris transfer station is located at 37 Brown St., Norway, where residents from both towns do their recycling. The two towns joined to run the transfer station in June 2009. The money that is reaped from the recyclables goes toward keeping the transfer station running. The transfer station recycles seven different materials—mixed paper, cardboard, office paper, plastic, tin cans, aluminum and newspaper. Many bails of compacted newspaper were stacked 20 feet high last Friday, with each bail weighing about 2,100 pounds.

Sessions worries that if Norway and Paris choose to go single-stream, his job will be on the line.

“If we go single-stream we [the employees] will lose our jobs,” said Sessions about the three employees who work in the recycling facility.

Sessions added that the cost of recycling going single-stream is expected to be more expensive, and the town would no longer get any money for the recycled plastic materials.

While some may argue that going single-stream is more environmentally friendly, Sessions believes that doing recycling by hand is more green. He said that a lot of electricity is used daily to power the $5 million worth of machinery that would process all recyclables together.

“What’s more green than doing it by hand?” said Sessions about the recycling. He added that in his 16 years of working at the transfer station, no one had ever asked about recycling going single-stream, as far as he knew.

He added that the machinery that would be used to compact most recyclables together wouldn’t be able to sort everything.

“Even single-stream would need about 18 pickers to get what the machinery doesn’t,” he said. In a corner room of the transfer station is a room with more than 30 large cardboard boxes overflowing with TVs, game systems, VCRs and more household electronics. “We do everything to make it as cheap for the people as possible.”

Single-stream machinery wouldn’t be able to take electronics or hard cover books. Sessions said that having the transfer station avoid going single-stream would be helpful for recycling hard cover books that Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School no longer uses.

Sessions said that as far as he is aware, the Norway Selectboard is currently mulling over the idea of going single-stream, saying that the idea is “on the radar.”

“A lot of people think it’s the way of the future,” he said. “But we’re doing an excellent job here.”