Municipalities, ecomaine pilot program to increase awareness about the importance of proper recycling

Summer interns will inspect bins, provide education and outreach to residents of Falmouth, Scarborough, South Portland, and Windham

PORTLAND, Maine (May 29, 2019) With the markets for some recyclable materials in flux, and the focus on reducing the amount of contamination, or trash, in recycling streams, four southern Maine communities are embarking on a new way of getting out the word about proper recycling – pounding the pavement.

The cities and towns of Falmouth, Scarborough, South Portland, and Windham, as part of a group of municipal sustainability managers, have hired summer interns to tour recycling and trash collection routes, review residents’ bins, and provide educational feedback on the importance of recycling – and recycling properly. Interns will work in a portion of each municipality during the summer; residents living in these areas will receive mailed notification about the program.

During interns’ inspections, they will tag carts with green tags for a job well done, yellow tags for carts that have one or two items that are not recyclable, and red tags for bins with too many items that cannot be recycled.  These bins are considered contaminated and increase costs for the municipality.  The tags will identify item(s) that do not belong in the recycling cart; Pine Tree Waste will not collect the carts with red tags on them, and the unacceptable items must be removed from the cart before collection the next week.

“By partnering on this pilot project, our hope is to decrease the amount of contamination in our recycling streams, first and foremost,” said ecomaine’s Communications Manager, Matt Grondin.  “We know that recycling is broadly supported by almost 90% of Americans, who want to do the right thing, but sometimes just aren’t quite sure where to put their waste.  By combining education and a small amount of enforcement, we hope to fulfill our mission to increase public awareness about sustainable solid waste management.”

Added South Portland’s Sustainability Director, Julie Rosenbach, “It’s really important to spread the word about the effect that trash in the recycling can have on our environment, but also our communities’ finances.  And we also hope that it will start conversations in neighborhoods about recycling, trash, and sustainability.”

In order to process recycling, ecomaine enforces a fee structure that can charge as much as $73 per ton for loads that contain 26% contamination or more.  Loads that are not contaminated incur no extra fee.

“ecomaine is really good at separating out the paper from the cardboard, metal, glass, and plastic,” said one of ecomaine’s Environmental Educators, Katrina Bussiere-Venhuizen.  “What we just aren’t set up to do is to sort out the pillows, food waste, Styrofoam, plastic bags, and other things that aren’t recyclable – those need to be disposed of in different ways, and hopefully, this pilot project will help get us there.”  

In addition to tagging bins, interns will also have information about municipal contacts, additional resources on recycling and trash, and how to dispose of particular items.  Residents can also visit ecomaine.org/pilotproject19 for more information.

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