Maine's garbage, also known as Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) includes:
Household and Business waste Bulky waste
(packaging, food, etc.) (construction debris, appliances, etc.)
Industrial and agricultural waste are not counted as MSW.
What we did with 1,770,470 tons of
municipal solid waste generated in 2009:
The pie chart shows that 38.7% was recycled, 33.3% was incinerated in a waste to energy plant, 25.4% was landfilled, and 2.4% was exported out of state to be landfilled.
The Maine Legislature's Goal: Recycle 50% of the state’s waste by January 1, 2009.
Maine currently recycles 38.7% of the solid waste generated annually. If we all worked harder in keeping recyclables out of the trash and placing them in local recycling programs, the 50% goal could be reached. For example:
Maine currently recycles 42% of its available paper.
If we recycle all of our paper, that alone could get us to our overall 50% recycling goal.
Maine’s recycling hasn’t caught up with the amount of trash we produce. Even as we recycle more, we continue to produce more and more trash. As a result, the recycling rate has not changed much. This can be seen clearly in the chart below where the blue line is the increasing amount of trash Mainers produce and the pink line is the amount that we recycle, which has remained fairly flat.
To raise our recycling rate we need to reduce and reuse as well as recycle.
Each Maine community determines its own system for managing waste. As a result, there are nearly as many different recycling programs in Maine as there are towns. Approximately 40% of Maine’s residents are provided curbside collection services, the remainder use drop-off services.
Nearly 34% of Maine’s garbage was incinerated in 2009 at four waste to energy facilities. These four facilities are Ecomaine, in Portland, Maine Energy Recovery Company(MERC) in Biddeford, Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC) in Orrington, and Mid-Maine Waste Action Corporation (MMWAC) in Auburn.
How does an incinerator work?
- Trash is burned at very high temperatures producing heat that converts water into steam.
- The steam powers turbines that generate electricity.
- Scrubbers, bag houses and other equipment significantly reduce the amount of pollutants emitted into the environment.
- After burning, about 1/3rd of the garbage is left as non-combustible debris or ash. These leftovers are disposed of in a landfill.
The combined daily processing capacity of the 4 waste to energy facilities: 2,750 tons of waste a day
Landfills – General Information
Today’s landfills are very different from the old ones where people just dumped their garbage in an open area. Now landfills are strictly regulated to prevent contamination.
Most landfills have:
- Plastic and clay liner systems underneath the waste to protect soil and water supplies.
- Collection pipes for the liquid (called leachate) produced by the garbage and rainfall, which is usually sent to waste water treatment plants for disposal.
- Pipes for managing the gases released by the waste.
- The surface area of the waste is covered daily to assist in controlling odors and reducing the number of birds and animals attracted to the site.
- The landfill is designed to keep out water and air so it is a very dry environment.
Many modern landfills are using the methane gas released by the garbage to generate power. Once the landfill is full, the area is capped with another layer of plastic, covered with soil, and eventually restored to a natural looking area.
There are 11 landfills currently operating in the state that accept the majority of the solid waste we generate, including the ash and residues from the waste to energy incineration facilities:
- 6 are municipally owned and used primarily for disposal of garbage generated within the community or the region: Bath; Brunswick; Augusta (Hatch Hill); Greenville; Presque Isle; and Fort Fairfield (TriCommunity).
- 2 are municipally owned/operated by regional entities and are used primarily for the disposal of residue from 2 waste to energy plants. Mid-Maine Waste Action Corporation sends ash to the Lewiston Landfill and the residue from the ecomaine waste to energy plant in Portland is sent to a landfill in Scarborough.
- 2 are privately owned by solid waste management companies: Waste Management Inc. owns and operates the Crossroads Landfill, located in Norridgewock; Casella Waste Systems owned and operated the Pine Tree Landfill, located in Hampden which closed at the end of 2009.
- 1 landfill is owned by the State of Maine and is called Juniper Ridge. This landfill is located in Old Town, and is operated by Casella Waste Systems. The state owns another landfill site outside of Lincoln, but that site remains wooded and undeveloped.
These landfills accept various waste streams and must be permitted and licensed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. In addition to these landfills, there are approximately 20 other publicly owned disposal facilities in Maine that accept brush, wood, inert debris and construction/demolition wastes.