Recycling Facility

The ecomaine recycling facility is the largest in Maine. We recycle fiber (paper, paperboard, corrugated cardboard, newsprint), #1 through #7 rigid plastic containers, metal (tin, aluminum, steel), and glass. At the close of the 2013-14 fiscal year ecomaine‘s recycling center had recycled 41,986 tons – a record for ecomaine.

Though much of the recycling tonnage would be valuable fuel for the waste-to-energy plant, the owner-communities and management of ecomaine are committed to making recycling their first priority. To continue the upward trend of recycling tonnage, ecomaine has dedicated two employees to recycling outreach among member and non-member communities.

Our recycling facility is located at 64 Blueberry Road, Portland (next to the waste-to-energy plant) and occupies the building originally built for baling solid waste in the 1970s. Trucks from all over southern Maine now stop here to unload recyclable materials. Because recyclables have value as a raw material, trucks are weighed before and after they drop off materials – the difference determines tonnage ecomaine has purchased.

While some ecomaine employees move materials with heavy equipment, others monitor conveyor belts and specialized sorting equipment as materials are sorted into homogeneous groups. Each group of like-materials follows a separate route through the building:

Star separatorStar separators in action
  • Cardboard is separated by a star screen separator that utilizes large rubber stars mounted on shafts. These shafts spin the stars. Due to the spacing between the stars, different materials can be sorted. By spacing the stars farther apart large cardboard can be separated because it will not fall between the stars whereas everything else will. The cardboard is then carried over the tops of the stars, passed from one shaft to the next until it falls over the last shaft onto a conveyor where it is whisked away to a holding bunker for baling at a later time. Everything small enough to fall through the stars (paper, plastic, metal & glass) falls onto a conveyor that then goes to manual presort.
ecomaine Photos by Brian Fitzgerald.
photo by Brian Fitzgerald


    • Paper is also sorted by star screen separators. ecomaine has a double deck of two star screens. The top, newspaper screen, is configured with similar rubber stars but smaller and spaced closer together. Using the same premise as cardboard the newspaper will pass from one shaft to the next over the top of the stars and fall onto a conveyor. Everything that falls through the stars then falls onto the second deck which utilizes stars configured even closer together. This mixed paper screen will sort out mixed paper, junk mail, magazines and the like. Everything that falls through the second deck (plastic, metal, and glass) continues on to the next phase in the sorting process. The sorted paper is then refined and baled. Compressed at 3100 pounds per square inch, the material is made into 2200 pound bales at the rate of one every 5-8 minutes.

      ecomaine Photos by Brian Fitzgerald.
      photo by Brian Fitzgerald


    • Glass, plastic, and metal are conveyed next to the magnet, where ferrous metals are separated and stored for baling.
    • The glass, plastic and non-ferrous or aluminum are then sent over a glass breaking screen that breaks the glass. Then, the plastic, aluminum, and broken glass will pass through another star screen which utilizes much smaller stars that are positioned very close together. This allows for the broken glass to fall through but the plastic and aluminum will continue over the tops of the stars. The broken glass is then conveyed to a glass cleaning unit to remove shredded paper which tends to follow broken glass due to the size. The glass is cleaned, to remove shredded paper, and crushed and used as aggregate.
    • The plastic and aluminum next pass through a sizing screen which is used to remove large plastic. Once the small plastic and aluminum are sorted they pass over an eddy current which acts like a reverse magnet that repels aluminum. This technology is used to sort the aluminum from the plastic. The large plastic must be removed to allow the eddy current to effectively repel the aluminum into a storage container for baling later.

Optical sorter

    • What is left is small and large plastic which is then rejoined onto a conveyor that will then pass under an Optical Sorter. This innovative new equipment shoots an ultra violet light through all the plastics and when it detects #1 PET it will direct a jet of air to propel the plastic into a chute that will convey the material to a holding container for baling. The remaining material will fall onto another conveyor which will then pass manual sorters who positively sort out #2 HDPE colored plastics, (laundry detergent bottles) #2 HDPE natural plastics, (milk jugs) and #3-#7 plastics.
  • All materials (with the exception of glass) are baled by type. The various bales are then sold at current market value (determined by demand) and picked-up by the buyer in tractor-trailer trucks. View a diagram of the single sort process. (PDF 52KB)

ecomaine continually monitors the fluctuation of market prices for each of its recyclable materials and communicates with potential buyers to ensure the best return for our communities.

ecomaine also reaches out to communities all over southern Maine, whether or not they are members, offering free assistance to schools and to recycling committees. School programs and presentations are part of our recycling education effort, as well as presentations and printed materials for adults.

For our member and associate communities, ecomaine also provides large collection trailers for recycling by individual residents. These trailers/containers are usually placed at transfer stations, large parking lots, or other easy-access locations and have been successful in increasing recycling. ecomaine owns 120 recycling trailers, which are placed within easy reach of about 20% of Maine’s total population.

Additionally, ecomaine would like to encourage recycling in small businesses. Download a copy of A Guide to Recycling for Small Businesses. (PDF 163KB)