First 300 residents who engage with EcoMaine about program to receive free recycling bins

Rockland to join single-sort recycling effort in June: Ditch styrofoam, crinkly plastic bags

Posted:  Thursday, May 16, 2019 - 12:00pm
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ROCKLAND — As Rockland kicks off its new single-sort recycling program, Saturday, June 8, at the transfer station, it also embarks on a revenue-sharing program with its recycling middleman, Ecomaine.

The recycling could bring profit to the city. But it could also be costly to taxpayers.

When trash items are sold, profit generates. Yet, Ecomaine also charges fees per percentage of volume when unacceptable items are mixed into the load. Seven percent contamination translates into a fee of $35/ton. That fee goes toward the cost of labor for their employee to unwrap the load, pull out the trash, and send the recycling ahead.

It’s up to the city and its residents to influence their single-sort wallet.

“If the markets are good, and if the contamination is very, very minimal, you’ll actually make money back,” said Katrina Venhuizen, environmental educator for Ecomaine, in a presentation to City Council, May 7. 

But, “It comes down to education and signage,” she said. “Those are the two most important things. To be 100% successful at the transfer station, you can’t just say ‘OK, there’s your bin, there’s your sign. Bye.’ It’s very much constant education and helping folks understand the why’s of things.”

Ecomaine is a nonprofit that takes in the trash and recycling of 72 communities. The trash is incinerated. The glass is crushed and given away to organizations who create countertops, pothole filler, and filler for the construction of buildings. The recyclable rest is sold.

Plastic, according to Venhuizen, has never been sent out of the country by Ecomaine, and therefore the organization is not influenced by China’s market.

The town of Bridgton has close to zero contamination, which is any material not accepted by the facility. Plastic bags, #6 plastic, crinkly plastics such as chip bags or onion bags, are examples of unwanted items.

To keep the unwanted out, and to profit from the revenue-sharing, Bridgton designates a transfer station employee to supervise what goes into the city’s bins.

“It might seem like overkill, but it’s incredibly productive,” said Venhuizen.

Employees at the transfer station used by Owls Head, Thomaston, and South Thomaston also assist residents with dispensing their single-sort materials. (Read: Owls Head, Thomaston and South Thomaston recycling program, employees recognized for quality operation)

The first 300 residents who engage with EcoMaine representatives about the program during the event will receive free recycling bins.   

Single-sort recycling includes

Cardboard: boxes received in the mail, shoe boxes, food boxes. Soup in a box, wine in a box. broth in a box. all of those things are definitely great. Make sure they are empty. Screw tops can be left on or taken off. That screw top is considered trash.

“We don’t want things that are very, very small. Things that are about the size of your palm or smaller will fall through the cracks [of the conveyor belt sorting machine at Ecomaine].”

The rule with paper: If you can rip it, we can take it.

They’ll take egg cartons that are paper or plastic, but No Styrofoam.

“That’s a big no-no. Anything Styrofoam is never recyclable. That is because it is just so light-weight that there is no recycling capability of it. It’s essentially a feather, and then you are transporting air from place to place. And the closest place to recycle Styrofoam is in New Jersey. It’s not economically feasible for recycling facilities such as ours to take it, so Styrofoam will never be allowed.”

Ecomaine wants your metal. No need to remove the labels. The paper labels will detach on their own and go with the other paper items.

We’ll take your glass containers. No light bulbs or mirrors. But, any glass container from spaghetti sauce, soy sauce, curry, jam, mayonnaise, all those containers are great. We will take the top, you can either leave those on or off. The glass will be crushed or broken, so the tops will come off anyway, and will be retrieved with a magnet. The glass is reused instead of recycled.

“That is because there is zero market for it,” said Venhuizen. “No one is buying our glass. No one is taking it and turning it into things for free. So, we happen to give it away.”

Shredded paper is an exception. No bags, no bags, no bags is the theme. Except when shredded material is concerned. “If you were to put shredded paper right in to the hopper, it would be like confetti. There would be paper in the medal. Paper in the plastic. Paper in the paper. Paper everywhere.”

Ecomaine asks that the shredded paper go in a clear plastic bag so that workers can see that and keep it separate.

The facility doesn’t want squishy plastic. “If you can crush it in your hand, that’s a no,” she said. Examples: chip bag, onion bag. 

Anything that retains its shape, even if it can be squeezed, these are yeses.

It can all go into one bin, as of June 8.

“You can have a bin from the transfer station that you get from us for free. You can put it in a laundry bin. You can put it in a box. You could even put it in a bag. But you may not put the bag into the hopper or into the container that is going to come down to us in that bag. We will not take material in bags.

“1.) When the material is moving through our facility, it’s being sorted out by a couple of ways. As bags move over the spinning stars along the conveyor, bags tend to break open and the bag will get stuck around the stars.

“2.) If we get material in bags, we don’t always know that there is recyclable material in there. There could be needles or sharps. There could be kitty litter. There could be dog waste or diapers. – Whenever we see something in a bag, we automatically think ‘most likely trash,’ so we are throwing it away.”

 

The Rockland transfer station will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 8.