Dennis Patnoe Recalls 24 Years of Service at Lancaster, NH during Monthly MOM Meeting

December 14, 2020

A good crowd of well-wishers attended NRRA's monthly MOM meeting virtually to listen to Dennis Patnoe present about the history of Lancaster, NH's Transfer Station. Several volunteered their words of thanks and congratulations upon his retirement as the Station Supervisor at the end of this month. Dennis was awarded NRRA's highest honor of the Sam Izzo "Recycler of the Year" Award in 1994 and has served on NRRA's board of trustees for 18 years.

Lancaster, NH's station began in 1942 next to the town burn dump and transitioned into a landfill in the 1960s. Dennis remembers that he heard there was an opening  at the station in 1997and started asking questions to the Town Manager at the time. Once they knew he was interested, they asked him when he would start! He has been there for the last twenty-four years. When he began work, there was one storage trailer and one unheated workspace with one baler. They did the best job they could with what they had. Today, Lancaster has sixteen storage trailers, a demolition grinder plus two open tops, four vertical balers, a bobcat, a glass pulverizer (which they use for the base for solar panels and for the Transfer Station foundation), a waste oil heater, and they compost as well.

One of the best days Dennis had was in 1999 when Lancaster voted almost unanimously to start a Pay As You Throw program. This program has worked well for the town and has led to increased recycling and reduction in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). Their system offers residents large bags at a cost of $1.50 and they have kept the prices the same for the last 21 years. If the resident brings a non-town bag, they charge $2 each.  Most residents see the economics of buying the town bags but they aren't required. The reason the program is successful is they spent one and a half years educating the public before they started. Dennis figures that they have reduced annual MSW from 1500 tons per year down to 500 tons of MSW per year while tripling recycling to a 60% rate. He recommends that the next Supervisor look at increasing the cost of the PAYT bags just to cover the costs.

With a population of 3,300 people, Lancaster's programs include: Cardboard, Sorted Office Paper, Mixed Paper (paused during Covid but ready to move a load now), Natural HDPE plastics, Mixed Color HDPE plastics, PET plastics and more! Dennis credits the staff and residents with the success of the station. He is most proud of "My son, Brian,  getting to work with him for a few years at the station. The second thing I am proud of is having 99% of the public happy when they come to see us. That is what makes a good facility. The secret is to put your mind to it and believe in what you do, and have good administrators!"

Dennis credits his involvement with NRRA with a former Littleton operator who asked him along to a MOM meeting because he wanted Dennis to drive! He has received lots of "guidance and support over the years at MOM meetings." What is his advice for the future? "Continue on the right path and keep up the steady pace.'' He doesn't plan to go away and would like to help other towns and stay on as a NRRA Board Member.

In addition to the main presentation, Member Services Manager, Bonnie Bethune, covered the recycling market changes which had many positive increases in value. Cardboard continues to be a strong commodity, and even Mixed Paper is increasing to earn revenue! Plastics are the biggest challenge for #1-#7 markets, but NRRA is reaching out to additional vendors for other options. Scrap metal and aluminum cans are also on the increase in revenue. Executive Director, Reagan Bissonnette, reviewed our new Glass Story Map which is a good tool for operators to share with their residents to show the how and why about NRRA's two glass programs. We reviewed our recently announced Annual School Club Awards. Our January MOM meeting will be a virtual tour of ecomaine on January 13th.