Waste Management & Recycling Program
Waste Management Hierarchy
In 2009 it was calculated that Maine residents and businesses generated just over 1.7 million tons of trash - which amounts to about 7.3 pounds of garbage produced by each person each day. This is nearly 2,600 pounds of trash per person per year! Maine's solid waste management hierarchy is a priority list of how we should appropriately deal with all of this waste, with the goal of reducing the amount of waste needing to be landfilled. This hierarchy was adopted by the Maine Legislature in 1989.
For more information on the hierarchy and the policy click here: MRSA 38 §2101
Maine's Hierarchy from highest to lowest priority:
The best way to deal with trash is to not have any!
Reducing the amount of trash you have to throw out actually prevents waste from piling up in the first place. To reduce your waste, avoid unnecessary packaging and items designed to be used only once. Reduce the need for ’single use’ plastic bags by bringing your own bags when you shop, and use a travel mug when you buy coffee. Choose durable, reusable products to make less trash.
Reusing items saves a lot of energy and money. Extend the life of items you buy by reusing them. For example, reuse containers and jars, and donate still usable household goods and clothing to charity.
Every day we use products made from recycled materials. Take your glass, cans, newspapers, milk jugs and other acceptable recyclable items to your local transfer station or curbside collection so that they can be turned into new products like fleece jackets, Frisbees, cars, and soda cans. Recycling saves money, energy, and the environment. 38.7% of Maine’s municipal solid waste was recycled in 2009.
Composting is nature's way of recycling.
When you compost, you convert vegetable scraps, leaves, grass clippings and other materials into a nutrient rich soil material. You can use finished compost in your garden and around shrubs or other plants to help them grow. Composting also reduces the amount of materials that need to be landfilled.
Waste-to-Energy facilities accept our solid waste and combust it very high temperatures producing heat that is used to convert water into steam. The steam is used to run turbines to generate electricity. Scrubbers, filters, and other pollution control equipment reduce pollutants released during the incineration process. Ash and other residues are landfilled. Over 33% of Maine’s garbage was combusted in 2009.
Today’s landfills are very different from the old ones where people just dumped their garbage in an open area. Landfills are constructed and operated to strict environmental standards, including liners to protect groundwater. Within this hierarchy, landfills are the last of the various solid waste management options that should be considered.
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