LACONIA — It doesn’t sit well with some residents that after years of encouraging recycling, city officials now plan to cut costs by closing three recycling stations and urging people to throw out glass.
Jon Poitras, who was dropping off bags of recyclables at the Messer Street station Thursday, said the pending closures are a “little senseless.”
"They're taking profit over the fact that we're doing something environmentally sound," he said.
Poitras also doesn’t like the idea of no longer recycling glass.
"I don't know why we would go down that road," he said. "It doesn't seem ecologically friendly to me."
Joanne Slade, who was also using the Messer Street station Thursday, questioned the city’s commitment to recycling.
"I thought we were doing it for the environment,” she said. “No, it looks like we were doing it for profit."
The City Council approved the recycling changes, expected to save $70,000 yearly, on May 14 after City Manager Scott Myers explained that costs have skyrocketed and recyclables have lost much of their value.
Curbside recycling will continue and recyclables will continue to be accepted at the Laconia transfer station. The three remote stations are unmanned and recyclables tend to pile up, including from nonresidents who aren’t supposed to use the facilities.
Myers told the City Council, “Glass is trash,” explaining that since the Northeast’s only glass recycling plant closed, the city’s recycling contractor is placing glass in a landfill. The city pays more per ton for recycling than for disposal, so money can be saved if people keep glass out of their recycling and merely put it in the trash, he said.
Myers said his saying, “Had a nice ring to it,” but on Thursday, the Northeast Resource Recovery Association pushed back in a news release with the headline, “GLASS IS NOT TRASH!”
The nonprofit organization, which provides marketing assistance for municipalities, individuals and businesses in the areas of waste reduction and recycling, said glass remains “an extremely valuable recyclable material.
“Whether crushed to a three-eighths’ minus specification for reuse under roads, sidewalks and parking lots, or melted and reused for other glass products, it most certainly is not trash and it can be recycled at a much lower cost per ton than either single stream recycling or trash disposal.”
Glass is made up mostly of sand. Some cities crush it to a fine mix for use in construction and road building.
Gilford will soon be recycling glass in this way, said town Administrator Scott Dunn.
“We will use the material locally,” he said. “I think of it as fill. We could use it to fill a hole or for a base for a road.”
Laconia Public Works Director Wes Anderson said Laconia is not planning a similar system, but it might be something that could be examined in the future.
Mike Durfor, executive director of the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, said all recycling costs have gone up as China has scaled back purchases of recyclables. Many municipalities are seeing budget overruns.
Still, many people remain committed to recycling as the right thing to do environmentally.
“How many people are willing to pay more for recycling?” Durfor asked. “It’s a visceral issue. Some people believe in it passionately, and will pay more for it, like an organic banana that people will pay more for, believing it’s better for you.”
Staff Writer Adam Drapcho contributed to this report.