Cape Elizabeth Bottle Shed sorting solution comes up empty

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A new sorting system at the Bottle Shed has been delayed because the contractor, which may be replaced, was unprepared for the January start-up.

The Town Council in December approved a proposal from Town Manager Mike McGovern for a vendor to sort bottles off-site, instead of having volunteers sort in the donation shed at the Recycling Center.

On Dec. 31, 2014, McGovern emailed councilors to tell them the vendor, Madden Beverage, said it did not have the proper equipment and could not start in January.

“(Madden Beverage) indicated they would have the equipment,” McGovern said on Wednesday. “They got back to us on Dec. 30 and said they couldn’t do it.”

McGovern said the town tried to contact Madden several times during December to confirm it could begin sorting bottles in January, and didn’t hear back until the end of the month.

McGovern said he is unsure why the Saco business doesn’t have the equipment ready.

Owner Ed Madden on Wednesday said the equipment didn’t come in on time and it wouldn’t be possible to sort the bottles without a machine.

“We were counting on an automation to sort bottles,” Madden said. “It’s impossible to take that on without hiring an army of people.”

Under the old system, bottles and cans left at the Bottle Shed were sorted on a monthly, rotating basis by organizations that benefit local youth groups. In November, McGovern said it has been difficult to find volunteers to do the work, even after opening it up to all nonprofits, not just those that work with children.

Under the new system, Madden Beverage was supposed to sort the bottles. The company has been working with the Bottle Shed through the old system by picking up already sorted bottles every couple of weeks. Madden said his company will continue to do this until the sorting equipment comes in, but he said he doesn’t know when that will be.

Using the new system is supposed to generate more money each month for Bottle Shed beneficiaries because, according to the town website, Madden would eliminate the 10 percent handling fee it now charges.

Robert Malley, director of Public Works, said redesigning the Bottle Shed could bring in as much as $30,000 a year, according to the town website. The Bottle Shed generated just over $23,000 in 2013, and $17,000 in the first nine months of 2014.

McGovern said he and Malley are now “trying to engage with other vendors” who are interested in working with the town to sort bottles. McGovern didn’t say the town has officially decided to stop working with Madden, but only that it is determining if other vendors would be able to do the work.

In the meantime, the Cape Elizabeth Lions Club, which has been sorting bottles when other organizations have not volunteered, has offered to continue to provide its labor.

McGovern said he and the town are very grateful the Lions Club has stepped up to do the work.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with their willingness to step forward on such short notice, especially in the coldest month of the year,” he said.

In November, when McGovern first proposed the new system, Lions Club member Max Rae told councilors how much the club depends on proceeds from the Bottle Shed.

In November, McGovern said he wants councilors to appoint a three-person committee that would determine the beneficiary of the Bottle Shed donations each month. The committee would be responsible for announcing the beneficiary far enough in advance so that residents would know the beneficiary ahead of time.

The committee has yet to be formed.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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Cape Elizabeth may find a new vendor to sort bottles at the Bottle Shed after Madden Beverages of Saco was unprepared to start in January.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.