ecomaine will continue to build on the success of its curbside recycling education program by expanding the project into more communities in Maine in 2021 and 2022. To provide greater public awareness of acceptable recycling materials, ecomaine hired staff in March to examine recycling and trash collection routes in areas of communities in Maine where data indicates levels of higher contamination and where municipal staff requested the program. The staff review residents’ bins and provide educational feedback on the importance of recycling – and recycling properly.
During cart reviews, inspectors lift the lid and evaluate the contents of the cart. They then issue green tags for acceptable recyclables within the cart or bin, yellow tags for loads that have a handful of items that are not recyclable, and red tags for loads with too many items that cannot be recycled – including trash. The bins with red tags are considered overly contaminated and increase costs for the municipality. Therefore, they will not be picked up by the collection company. The tags will identify item(s) that do not belong in the recycling cart.
After twelve weeks in Portland, Scarborough, South Portland, Westbrook, and Yarmouth in the spring of 2021, ecomaine will seek to continue the momentum in as many communities as can be reached through a new model that shares the cost of the program with each participating municipality. “We have seen the popularity and impact of this project grow over a couple of years,” said Matt Grondin, ecomaine’s Communications Manager. “The next step is to determine how broad the need is, and how far we can increase the impact, based on what the data tell us and what we hear from our partners.”
ecomaine will examine recycling contamination data from the loads it receives, along with expressed interest from its 71 member communities to determine which municipalities will take part in the project – and when – over the next year. When ecomaine staff ran the program previously, significant gains were made in reducing contamination from impacted loads of recyclables – in one case, reducing the contamination rate from higher than 80% down to 25%.
The most recent program began in April in neighborhoods in Portland, Scarborough, South Portland, Westbrook, and Yarmouth, with data collected and analyzed weekly. On average, through the project this spring, green tags have increased 52%, while yellow and red tags have decreased 62% and 69%, respectively.