Occasionally, ecomaine holds education sessions for our member towns’ staff, transfer station workers, and recycling/solid waste committee members to answer questions and clear up some misconceptions. We have collected some of the frequently asked questions and answers below.
If you’d like to watch the video of our May 2018 Education Session, see below, from South Portland Community Television.
1.Is [SPECIFIC ITEM] recyclable?
Folks can always call us as well, at 207-773-1738.
2. Recently, what is the new change in recycling?
We are seeing contamination coming from all of our member towns; since China and others have cracked down on acceptable contamination, now we all must as well. ecomaine has an inspector standing on our recycling tip floor to check incoming loads and we are charging for contamination. These charges are on top of what is already paid as the recycling tipping fee. See amounts below:
-Loads that contain 3-5% contaminants by volume receive a warning notification
-Loads that contain 6-10% contaminants by volume incur a $35 per ton fee
-Loads that contain 11-15% contaminants by volume incur a $45 per ton fee
-Loads that contain 16-20% contaminants by volume incur a $55 per ton fee
-Loads contain 21-25% contaminants by volume incur a $65 per ton fee
-Loads which contain 26% or higher contaminants by volume incur a $70.50 per ton fee
All fees are subject to change with the recycling market changes.
What does this mean for your town? We all share in the responsibility of cleaning up contamination; ecomaine’s 400,000 customers as a whole need to do a better job of keeping the unwanted stuff out of our recycling loads. This means watching the bins more, talking to folks when you see something wrong, or asking us or the Recyclopedia questions if you or your customers have them. We are not worried about the little bit of extra peanut butter or laundry detergent left in the container. What we are seeing coming through our lines are shoes, toasters, chainsaws, pillows, leaves and garden plants (real and fake), rope and electrical cords, half-emptied soda bottles, animal parts, etc. There’s no place in the recycling stream for these materials – that’s contamination.
3. How do I access updated promotional materials that are printable, for example, the Education and Outreach brochure?
- Our Recycling webpage for lists, the Recyclopedia, and our single-sort recycling brochure
- Our Resources page for posters, Dos and Don’ts, mailers, and more – many are customizable and translated into Spanish, French, and Arabic.
- Our Education page for information on tours, educational outreach, and that informational brochure
- Our Waste-to-Energy Facility’s page for information and our brochure on ecomaine’s Waste to Energy Plant.
You can also get in touch if you need specific items and can’t find them. We will be happy to point you in the right direction or drop them off/send you some in the mail. Call 207-773-1738 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Do you take bags and plastic rigid containers? How small can plastic be?
ecomaine cannot accept bags in single-sort for three reasons:
- We used to take them in recycling bins, up until 2016. There was a small market for them, meaning we could sell them, but that is no longer the case.
- Grocery stores and many communities are starting to implement bag bans or fees and we are supportive of this approach, since it is part of our mission and adheres to the waste hierarchy (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost, Waste-to-Energy, Landfill).
- Plastic bags gum up the machines we use to sort paper and cardboard, rubber sorting stars on axles (see photos below).
Options for disposing of bags include:
- Reduce use in the first place through reusable shopping bags
- Reusing them in any way possible, like a small trash can liner or for pet waste, before putting them in the trash
- Simply putting the bags in the trash – they’ll go to ecomaine’s Waste to Energy plant, where they’ll be turned into electricity!
- Bring them to stores like Hannaford, Shaw’s, Walmart and Target (find your local locations and what types of bags and films are acceptable at www.plasticfilmrecycling.org)
Ecomaine accepts all rigid (meaning not soft or able to be crumpled in your hand like a bag would) plastic containers labeled #1-#7. Examples include berry containers, ketchup bottles, milk jugs, yogurt cups and so much more.
Plastic must meet requirements above (#1-7, rigid, container) no matter the size. For example: a water bottle cap is too small and will potentially fall through our sorting mechanisms, is not a container and often isn’t labeled.
But if you leave the caps on your bottles, they will be recycled, as typically, bottles are made of #1 or #2 and caps are typically made of #2 or #5. The different types of plastic either sink or float and are separated from each other in the process of turning into something new!
5. Up until recently, you took my recycling in plastic bags? Why not anymore?
6. Often items are marked with a symbol or number but are not truly recyclable. Which “plastic” items are actually recyclable?
Just a couple of examples of other items that might have a symbol are dog or horse food bags (#5), computer batteries, and propane tanks. These all have a symbol if not a symbol and number on them but items like these aren’t recyclable because there is either no market (dog food bags) to sell them off or they are dangerous (battery and propane tank).
7. How can we (as towns) best share the message about plastic bags and films?
For single-use bags and films that are already out there, you can promote reuse. Reuse of these items could be keeping bubble wrap in a drawer for future shipping/packing needs, and bags can be used for so many different uses from getting produce from the store/farmers market to lining trash cans, carrying gym clothes, or picking up pet waste.
Recycling of these clean and empty bags CAN occur but NOT in your recycling bin. Visit plasticfilmrecycling.org to find grocery and department stores who accept films and which types they are looking for.
8. How about five gallon buckets? Are they recyclable?
9. What about recycling mixed materials products like dinner roll tubes with cardboard and metal or foil wrapped cardboard dish powder boxes, for example?
10. Why don’t you take waste oil and recycle it?
For transfer stations who don’t take waste oil, there are often places nearby that will accept it. For one example, Fryeburg has Pete’s Garage – and when we called them, they said they take waste oil to heat their building using a clean burn waste oil heater. Pretty neat! Other facilities will recycle it in some way, like Maine Standard Biofuels turns waste cooking oil and turns it into bioheat, biodiesel and cleaning products.
Find locations near your town HERE and don’t forget to call the facility before you tell folks to drop off oil there, as this DEP’s list was last updated in 2013.
11. Where can I dispose of old paint and pesticides?
Pesticides are a bit trickier because they need to be taken to specific places or wait for a local hazardous household waste disposal day. Two places you can take this now are Riverside Recycling in Portland and Maine Environmental Depot in Lewiston.
Also, from the DEP website: To dispose of unwanted pesticides, call the Board of Pesticide Control at 207-287-2731 to find out when they will be holding a collection in your area.
And here are two great sites for information on disposing of electronics, florescent bulbs and mercury-containing thermostats:
12. What can I do with small empty propane tanks?
Currently, only ferrous metals are removed from the trash and recycled separately as post-burn metal. No other recyclable materials are removed so please put all cardboard, paper, plastic, metal containers and glass containers in your recycling bin.
13. Sometimes, residents still put trash in their curbside recycling bins. How do I encourage proper use?
Helping the residents understand that it is potentially their tax paying dollars that are wasted when they contaminate could also be helpful. We hear the argument “but I pay taxes, why should have to pay more?” Well, imagine how much higher taxes would be if they had to pay for their own and everyone else’s contamination!
14. How can we manage contamination in silver bullets in remote areas?
15. How to dispose of electrical wire?
16. How can I throw out sheet rock?
17. How do I recycle old windows with the glass still in them?
18. What does it mean to be community-owned?
ecomaine was founded in 1976, originally under the name Regional Waste Services, by Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Scarborough, and South Portland, in response to a (then) new Maine law that called for the closing of privately and publically owned landfills. These four communities wanted a voice in the way their waste was being handled and since then, sixteen additional municipalities have made further investments in ecomaine to become owner communities.
19. How is the Board of Directors elected?
20. Where does all our trash and recycling go?
Trash that comes to ecomaine gets mass-burned in an environmentally-responsible way – and enough energy is recovered powers our facilities, plus an additional 15,000 homes! A more detailed explanation of the process can be found here. Recycling that comes to ecomaine gets sorted in our recycling facility, baled, and then sold on the global commodities market to make new things. For more details about the sorting process, click here.
21. My trash and recycling all seem to go into the same truck. How do recyclables get recovered?
By only putting materials accepted by ecomaine in the recycling bin, you and your residents are helping keep our employees safe and keep costs down for everyone. Thank you!