Can I recycle THIS?
By Brigit McCallum
The Waterboro Transfer Station and Recycling Committee in its campaign to increase recycling in Waterboro has been hearing some similar questions from new and experienced recyclers alike. Some of the confusion comes from changes that occur as evolving technology makes the recycling of more materials economically worthwhile and industries develop around them. Other confusion comes about by lack of understanding of the chemical differences among materials that otherwise seem similar. Below are some of the most commonly misunderstood products on the market.
Yes: In May of this year, ecomaine increased the recycling of plastics from numbers 1 and 2 only, to those numbered 1 – 7. This was a response to overwhelming public demand, not to the economics of recycling. Manufacturers generally use #1 and #2 plastics in their products, so there is profit in ecomaine’s baling and selling those products. There is no financial profit in ecomaine gathering #3 – 7 plastics … in fact a loss, as it takes a lot of generally scarce products to have enough to bale and sell. The major advantage to Ecomaine’s taking these plastics is to remove them from the waste stream, and to encourage and honor the wishes of those from member communities who recycle.
No: Children’s toys, plastic furniture, and un-numbered plastic bags are not recyclable. ecomaine can only take containers, and they must be marked with a number 1-7. Therefore, some flower pots are recyclable, others are not – look for the numbers! Examples of other items that are not recyclable are small, and go into trash bags into the hopper. Some of these include CD jewel cases, some small plastic toys and action figures and such. Chaise lounge chairs with a metal frame and plastic webbing can be recycled with scrap metal. Inflatable wading pools, inflatable pool toys or waterbeds and large plastic toys such as slides, big wheels bikes, and dollhouses go into the bulky waste bins for a fee. Plastic toys with many parts and materials other than plastic do not qualify either and are disposed in bags in the hopper or bulky waste bins, according to their size.
Yes: Hannaford, Shaws and WAL*MART bags are marked #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene). LL Bean ships soft items in recyclable #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) plastic bags also, as does Green Giant frozen peas. All bags brought back to Hannaford are actually recycled, while those bags brought to the transfer station, go into the hopper. This is because the Hannaford chain generates enough plastic bag waste to make it economical to bale and ship them to a facility that handles them. These plastic bags are processed and marketed to companies that produce the leading alternative to wood decks by using recycled plastic bags, stretch wrap from businesses, and wood waste such as wood chips, shavings, and sawdust.
No: Hannaford Deli zip lock and other zip lock and clear plastic bags that have any food waste in them are not recyclable. If washed and dried they can be included. Bubble wrap should be re-used or returned to stores that use it, like Mail Boxes USA.
Yes: None is recyclable.
No: All. When ecomaine began to take plastics in all numbers (1-7) some people noticed the #2 and #5 or #6 on the bottom of coffee cups and meat/poultry trays at Hannaford. In fact, what we call foam or Styrofoam is actually “air-injected (or expanded) polystyrene, and it is not recyclable in the market ecomaine trades in.
Yes: Commonly called "drink boxes," aseptic packages are the result of a beverage and liquid food system that allows perishable food products to be distributed and stored without refrigeration for periods up to six months or more. It is used to preserve and package everything from milk, juice, and drinks of all kinds to scrambled egg mix, tomato sauce, soups, and other liquid foods. The most common label found on the bottom of these products is Tetra Brik. They can be rinsed, flattened, and recycled. At ecomaine these items are baled with paper or cardboard. In some places where there is enough of a market for them, handlers separate these from other paper, and they are sent to a facility that can hydropulp them, thus separating the paper, polyethylene, and aluminum foil they are made of. This recycled pulp is used to make paper towels, tissues, and writing paper. As this is a relatively new product the market is only beginning to develop.
Yes: Cardboard that ecomaine keeps in Maine or the US for re-processing can contain egg cartons. Like other cardboard it is helpful to flatten them.
No: Bales of cardboard that are shipped out of this country sometimes end up in China or other Asian countries. There have been instances where handlers in these countries have refused by buy bales that they see containing egg cartons, because of the Bird Flu epidemic. This is another example of how we are in a global economy. Because ecomaine is currently using a market in Nova Scotia called Scotia Recycling for cardboard, egg cartons are not an issue here at this time.
Yes: None is recyclable.
NO: 1. Standard incandescent light bulbs should be placed in trash bags.
2. Traditional fluorescent light tubes, and the new Compact Fluorescent Lights
(CFLs) contain minute amounts of mercury, thus need to turned in to an attendant at the Transfer Station. Incandescent bulbs produce much more heat than light, thus requiring more electricity per unit of light. While detractors complain about the continued presence of mercury in these bulbs, the minimal amount of electricity the CFLs use, as compared with incandescent lights can significantly lessen the pollution generated by coal-burning power plants.
Yes: None is recyclable.
1. Non-rechargeable batteries can go in with household waste into the hopper.
2. Rechargeable batteries need to be brought to the shed at the Transfer Station where they are sent to a facility that reuses essential components. These must not be disposed of in household waste as they contain small amounts of heavy metals that are toxic waste.
This is only a beginning. If you have questions about any item or material, bring your questions to the Transfer Station, and get the (most current) answer we can provide!