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Need to Know

How Maine Towns are Trying to Throw Away Less and Save More

Maine residents and businesses produced 2.5 million tons of waste in 2013, working out to 2.8 pounds of garbage per person each day.

While that’s less garbage per person than the national average (4.4 pounds), getting rid of all that waste is expensive. It’s consistently one of the top five expenses in municipal budgets, and an expense towns and cities are increasingly trying to reduce.

Policymakers have long had their eyes on waste reduction. In 1989, the Maine Legislature mandated that the state boost its recycling rate to 50 percent within 20 years. But 26 years later, Maine’s recycling rate has barely broken 40 percent, and it’s budged little in recent years.

Much of the trash Mainers throw into the waste bin can be recycled or composted instead. A 2011 waste characterization study by the University of Maine School of Economics revealed 22 percent of what Mainers throw away can be recycled and 38 percent composted.

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