Here’s why recycling containers are overflowing in some Aroostook towns

1 month ago

Residents in some Aroostook County communities have filled public containers used to collect recyclables to overflowing because of a month-long delay in repairing equipment used to pick up the material.

On May 3, Aroostook Waste Solutions sent its recycling collection truck to Portland-based Messer Truck and Equipment to get a new crane installed. The truck and crane date back to the mid 1990s and are specifically designed for collecting recycled materials from igloo-shaped containers, said Mark Draper, solid waste director at Aroostook Waste Solutions in Fort Fairfield.

But when AWS employees traveled to retrieve the truck on May 13, they were told that the new crane needed additional features to be a better fit for igloo collection. 

AWS received word that the crane and truck were ready on June 14, just over a month later, Draper said. 

“We’re on schedule to pick up the truck Wednesday and hopefully be back to work Thursday,” Draper said Monday.

AWS collects recyclables such as bottles, magazines, catalogs, newspapers and tin cans from 99 igloos at 17 locations in Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Easton, Limestone, Caswell, Cyr Plantation, Hamlin, Woodland, Stockholm, New Sweden, Sinclair, Portage, Mapleton and Washburn.

Despite warning residents to not put recyclables into the igloos, many are overflowing in larger communities. On Monday, a sign near igloos at Presque Isle City Hall said that recycling collection was “temporarily out of service” but bottles and other waste remained on the ground.

Draper said that once the truck is back, workers will likely begin igloo collection in larger communities that are more likely to have overflow.

“Ironically, this is the largest downtime we’ve had with this recycling system and it happened as a result of us trying to be proactive and prevent downtime [by replacing the crane],” Draper said. “We appreciate peoples’ patience and understand their frustrations.”

The AWS is looking at potential alternatives to the igloo system that could allow more space for recyclable materials and avoid situations like this, Draper said. 

“There’s only one manufacturer in the U.S. [the Fibrex Group in Florida] who makes these igloos, and they require a highly specific crane and truck,” Draper said.

Alternatives that are similar to traditional dumpsters could be more effective, but AWS needs to explore the costs and grant funding opportunities, Draper said.

Staff writer Paula Brewer contributed to this report.