2017-08-11 / Front Page

Cape opens new recycling center

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Cape Elizabeth Town Council Chairman Jamie Garvin shares comments at the official opening of the new Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center last week as fellow town Councilor Jessica Sullivan and Public Works Director Bob Malley look on. (Michael Kelley photo) Cape Elizabeth Town Council Chairman Jamie Garvin shares comments at the official opening of the new Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center last week as fellow town Councilor Jessica Sullivan and Public Works Director Bob Malley look on. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – After three months of construction, the newly refurbished recycling center on Dennison Drive is officially open to the public. Town officials and members of the solid waste and recycling long range planning committee, town council and recycling committee joined together last Thursday to officially declare the facility open, setting off this new era in its nearly 40-year history.

The new facility will keep the same hours as the previous one: Mondays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and operate as it has before, albeit in a different layout.

Cape Elizabeth Public Works Director Bob Malley said the old facility, which was constructed in 1978, lacked an efficient layout, which resulted in “organized chaos.”


New containers for recyclables was part of a three-month $1.4 million construction project to improve the Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center on Dennison Drive. (Michael Kelley photo) New containers for recyclables was part of a three-month $1.4 million construction project to improve the Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center on Dennison Drive. (Michael Kelley photo) The new center, which opened informally in mid- July, improves circulation and replaces a decades-old trash compactor with new solid waste and recycling facilities.

“We realized the compactor was aging – it was almost 40 years old – and needed to be replaced,” Malley said. “The town manager at the time Mike McGovern suggested we look at the whole (recycling solid waste) program.”

Since Cape Elizabeth does not offer curbside solid waste pickup like other neighboring communities do – residents have balked at the idea – the recycling center is where much of the town’s solid waste is collected until being transferred to ecomaine in Portland. The center is also where residents who have a permit, which is free with proof of year-round or seasonal residency, can dispose of recyclables such as paper, plastic, metal and glass, as well as compostable materials, brush and wood, electronic waste, motor and hydraulic oil, and larger items such as refrigerators, washer/dryers and furniture. Residents can also recycle bottles at the redemption center or use the Swap Shop, a small building where books, magazines and other household items can be dropped off, or taken.


Residents looking to get rid of their solid waste at the Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center will notice a new traffic pattern on the site. The traffic pattern and new facilities are part of a months-long effort to update the center and make it safer for residents to use. (Michael Kelley photo) Residents looking to get rid of their solid waste at the Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center will notice a new traffic pattern on the site. The traffic pattern and new facilities are part of a months-long effort to update the center and make it safer for residents to use. (Michael Kelley photo) The solid waste and recycling long range planning committee, which consisted of former Fort Williams Advisory Committee member William Brownell, Town Council Chairman Jamie Garvin, town Councilor Jessica Sullivan, former long-time town councilor Anne Swift-Kayata and former Cape Elizabeth fire chief Charles Wilson, began meeting in early 2015 and after eight months and 20 meetings, presented, on Aug. 31, 2015, a 50- page report that included an analysis of solid waste and recycling collection and recommendations to improve the services. Malley, who was staff support to the committee, said the group visited other similar facilities in mid-coast Maine as well as the Lyman Transfer Station.

On June 14, 2016 by a vote of 685 to 530, voters approved using up to $1.4 million “for improvements and upgrades” to the recycling center.

Malley said the project came in under budget – by $10,000 – and ahead of schedule. Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said the money will stay in the town’s bond fund and will go into the undesignated fund balance as surplus at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

“Being completed early and under budget is a testament to a lot of hard work,” Sturgis said.

“I think we achieved our goals, which were improving safety, convenience and ease of use and have a facility that will serve our needs for the next 25 years,” said Sullivan, who was chairman of the solid waste and recycling long range planning committee.

Garvin said the hardest part of the project was making sure the facility stayed open for residents as it was being updated.

Sturgis hopes Cape Elizabeth’s redesigned recycling center will serve as a model for other towns that don’t have curbside recycling and solid waste pickup. Malley said that is already happening. Officials from the Camden-Rockport area are interested in touring Cape Elizabeth’s facility.

Improving the facility has been a long-term goal of the council. The town looked into revamping the recycling center in 2003, but ultimately, Malley said, “at the time there wasn’t really a desire to change the set up we had.”

Fast forward a decade to 2014, that sentiment changed and talks about improving the facility re-emerged and a new recycling center was placed on the town’s list of capital improvement projects. Planning for the new facility was accelerated after a fatal accident on site in November 2014 in which a car hit former director of public works Herbert Dennison, knocking him into the trash compactor. Dennison, who was 79 at the time, led the public works department from 1966 to 1981. Dennison Drive is named for him.

Although the bulk of the work is done, Malley said there are a couple smaller things that need to be completed before the project is 100 percent completed, including building a retaining wall along the embankment and residing the universal waste building.

So far, he said, the new configuration is working well.

“There is a learning curve. We opened two and a half weeks ago and it is working very well so far. We’ve got a lot of positive feedback from residents,” Malley said.

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