Canterbury votes to continue recycling despite rising cost 

Monitor staff
Published: 3/16/2019 12:23:47 AM

The town of Canterbury made a symbolic gesture to maintain its recycling program Friday night, even though doing so might cost taxpayers in the future.

Residents at town meeting voted overwhelmingly in support of article 19, a petition warrant article which requested that the town continue to recycle “all available materials” even when there may be a “negative financial impact” down the road. Fewer than 10 people out of more than 200 voted against it.

Stephen Rasche, a member of the solid waste committee who submitted the petition, said he put forth the initiative in response to the rising costs of recycling since China, long the world’s leading recyclables buyer, stopped accepting many paper, metals or plastic materials last year.

For years, towns had been able to sell their recycled goods and use the money to offset the costs of the program or even make a profit. But now, it’s become cheaper in many cases for towns to discard recyclables and haul them away as trash.

Some New Hampshire municipalities, like Franklin, have already made the decision to discontinue their recycling programs, something Rasche said he is worried about happening in Canterbury.

“This issue came up several times (at solid waste committee meetings) and some people would say, ‘I think we should just throw it in the incinerator,’ ” Rasche said. “And part of the committee, mostly me, would say, ‘We shouldn’t be doing that,’ I don’t think the town would be in favor of that.”

He cited Canterbury’s past history of supporting recycling initiatives, like the town’s mandatory recycling ordinance and implementing a pay-as-you-throw trash program.

He also argued that less recycled paper means increased production of new paper products, which he said is “one of the most harmful industries on earth.” Burning recyclables as trash has its own environmental costs, creating more carbon dioxide per ton than burning coal.

Fellow solid waste committee member Chris Blair, however, said he could not support Rasche’s article. Although Blair said he supports recycling, he said he is concerned about the article’s broad scope.

“I thought the question was going to be posed, ‘If we have to spend an extra $4,000, would you be willing to recycle?’ I personally would have supported that, because I think it’s worth it,” Blair said.

Blair said he doesn’t support a blind commitment to continuing the program without further research into what the cost might be to upgrade equipment at the transfer station and maintain other requirements.

“To continue to recycle ‘even when there may be a negative financial impact,’ to me, that says, ‘Recycle anything at any cost for any duration,’ and I’m not willing to support that as written,” he said.

Rasche said the article wasn’t meant to be a binding financial commitment. It was meant to be more of a guidepost for the committee to use when making decisions in the future, he said.

“It’s kind of a broad, general question. It’s not worded to say, ‘The town must do this in all instances,’” he said. “It’s more to get a feel for how the town feels about this.”

The town passed a $2.7 million budget Friday night, around $3.1 million with warrant articles included. The budget passed as proposed with the exception of an additional $500 that was allocated for a raise for the town treasurer.

Residents also voted to put $25,000 toward the replacement of the dam at Turning Mill Pond in Canterbury Shaker Village. Canterbury Shaker Village Special Projects Manager Susan Bennett said the cost of replacing the dam is $200,000 total. She said Shaker Village was committed to raising $175,000 for the project.

Taxpayers additionally voted to establish a capital reserve fund to start saving up for a new loader. The current one is more than 30 years old, said select board member George Glines, and will need replacement soon. A new one will cost more than $100,000, he said.

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