Maine summer recycling program pays dividends

The small Maine towns of Harrison and Ogunquit realized measurable increases in their municipal recycling percentage rates and decreases in waste disposal costs this past summer through a trial campaign specifically targeting vacationers.

The results showed an increase in recycling percentages for both towns, as compared to the same three-month period last year: Harrison’s increased by 12.25 percent and Ogunquit’s by 28.61 percent.

These recycling rates are derived from the comparison of total waste tonnage to the number of recycling tons received at ecomaine, a non-profit, municipally-owned recycling, waste-to-energy, and landfill operation serving more than 20 percent of Maine’s population. That is, a town collecting 70 tons of waste and 30 tons of recycling has a total of 100 tons; recycling material is 30 percent of that total.

Both Harrison town manager Bradley Plante and Ogunquit town manager Thomas Fortier stressed that recycling is not only an environmental concern; it is also a financial concern for municipalities. Each of ecomaine’s 21 owner-communities pays $88 per ton of trash, but is entitled to recycle at no charge. As items get recycled, instead of thrown in with the trash, the town’s waste tonnage is reduced. From June through July 2009, compared to 2008 at the same time, Harrison saved $2,990 and Ogunquit saved $919 in waste disposal fees.

In September, one month after the summer recycling pilot campaign ended, Harrison benefited from a 7.9 percent increase in recycling compared to last September and Ogunquit increased 1 percent over last year.

The experiment was funded jointly by municipally-owned ecomaine and by the Maine State Planning Office’s waste management and recycling division. Each of the two participating towns were given 70 recycling bins, a supply of posters and a several thousand 5” x 7” cards printed with detailed recycling information and using the theme “Families recycle – even on vacation”.

Though the materials were created by ecomaine and ideas for distribution were discussed, it was left to the individual towns to determine how the pilot campaign would be implemented. “The materials we provided were catalysts and tools, but the successful outcomes were due to the planning and implementation done by volunteers with the support of their town managers,” added Chairman Plante.