Need to Know

Solving Portland, Maine’s Recycling Problem

A University of Southern Maine professor headed up a study of the city’s recycling collection and came away with some surprising findings that have led to a suggestion that the perhaps residents should be given larger recycling bins to prevent recyclable material from ending up in landfills.

The Portland Press Herald has the report:

Over seven weeks last summer, Wagner and his crew drove the streets of two Portland neighborhoods ahead of the trash trucks first to document the scene, and then again afterward to look for recyclable litter.

And they found plenty of it: 20,950 pieces of litter for every 1,000 households, or the equivalent of 3.74 tons of litter annually for every 1,000 households.

The results surprised even Wagner, who hopes his study could help persuade city officials to switch to larger, closed-top recycling bins.

“It’s one thing if you just drive by and observe (litter), but it’s another thing if you walk the route,” said Wagner, a professor at USM’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy and affiliated faculty at the Muskie School of Public Service. “And then what would happen is, as the winds picked up, they would blow that litter around. But it has to go somewhere, whether in another person’s backyard, into the bushes or into a storm drain.”

Read the full story here.


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