Friday, February 1, 2019

The importance of proper recycling and the cost of “wishcycling”

Manchester School students discover what is recyclable (in 2016)
By Lorraine Glowczak

We are all aware that recycling is the process of collecting materials that would be otherwise thrown away and make them into new products. To recycle reduces waste in landfills, conserves natural resources and prevents pollution, to name just a few of the benefits. It’s for these reasons most Americans will properly recycle items such as water bottles, newspapers and glass jars.

But what about that plastic fork? Is that a recyclable item? If you are not sure but throw it in the recycling bin and hope that all is well? Then you are a “wishcycler.” And this one act can cost you and the town money.

The term, wishcycling, is when an individual throws questionable items into the recycling bin hoping that the object will be properly recycled once it reaches the facility. The Windham Town Council learned about this and more at their last Tuesday, January 22 meeting. “We receive a report each month on how much contamination is in our recycling,” Interim Town Manager, Don Gerrish, told the council. “We’ve been on notice and we are going start to pay if the recycling hits a certain percentage of contamination.”

As a result, Gerrish invited Environmental Educator from ecomaine, Katrina Vehnhuizen to speak to and inform the council on the improperly recycled items that occurs at both curbside and the silver bullet site within the Town of Windham.
Vehnhuizen provided a PowerPoint presentation and shared with the Council some of the major contamination materials that people try to recycle which include (but are not limited to) the following: CDs or DVDs, appliances, such as microwaves or refrigerators as well as vehicle parts, propane tanks, hair dryer, coffee grounds and diapers. For the record - plastic cup lids, straws, knives, forks, and spoons are not recyclable materials either and, if put in the recycling bin, are considered contamination material.

“We also get a lot of plastic bags including big black trash bags to grocery store shopping bags,” Vehnhuizen stated. “These items are considered contamination and should not be placed in the recycling bins or in the silver bullets.”

Informing the public is Vehnhuizen’s job and she mentioned her success in educating students at Maine schools regarding the importance of proper recycling. She told the Council about her work at Windham’s Manchester School.

Katrina Vehnhuizen from ecomaine speaks to the Town Council about about improper recycling, otherwise known as 'wishcycling'
In the December 23, 2016 edition of The Windham Eagle’s article, “Fifth graders are ‘talking trash’ at Manchester School’, it was explained that as a result of the efforts of fifth grade teacher Jennifer Ocean, the school was awarded a $3,000 School Recycling Grant from ecomaine to teach the students about environmental responsibility.

Vehnhuizen visited the school and provided a hands-on and educational opportunities, teaching the students the difference between what is trash and what is not, by quite literally going through the garbage produced by the first school lunch hour. began the trash audit session, first weighing, then discarding a full bag of rubbish on a huge blue tarp. With tongs and rubber gloves, the students were asked to separate the trash into four piles, 1. Actual trash. 2. Re-useable items such as Ziploc bags, 3. Recyclables such as milk cartons and 4. Compost. The students discovered that what initially began as 25 pounds of waste, when separated into appropriate piles, ended up being only 1 pound of real trash. The students quickly discovered how many unnecessary items are placed into landfills and thus the need to reduce the amount of solid waste disposal.

Below is a helpful list to not only help reduce the amount of trash going into landfills, but to also help you and the Town of Windham save money.

Items that can be recycled:

Paper, including but not limited to:
All clean cardboard, paperboard and pizza boxes
Newspapers, advertising inserts and mail
Magazines, catalogs, phone books, hard cover books
Clean paper plates (not soaked or caked with food or oils)
Wrapping paper that can rip
Milk & juice cartons (it helps to remove caps, but isn’t necessary)
Drink boxes and other aseptic containers (such as nut milk boxes)
Shredded paper (contained in a clear plastic bag)
Plastic rigid containers marked with a #1 – #7 (NO Styrofoam, bags & films), including but not limited to:
Water bottles and salad containers jugs
Detergent bottles
Yogurt containers
Takeout food containers (not styrofoam)
Metal containers, including but not limited to:
Tin cans
Aerosol cans, such as shaving cream and hair spray (completely emptied)
Aluminum cans, tins and foil (not caked with food residue)
Pots and pans
Glass, including:
All glass bottles and jars

Items that cannot be recycled:

Propane, fuel, or gas (O²) tanks 
Plastic bags and film, such as SaranWrap®, shrink wrap or boat wraps 
Rope, cables, cords or wires
Yard waste or food (compost them instead!)
Video and audio tapes
e-waste, such as computers, laptops, TVs, etc. 
CDs or DVDs 
Appliances, such as microwaves or refrigerators 
Clothing, shoes or bedding 
Car, truck or boat parts, including batteries and brake rotors
Plastic cup lids, straws, knifes, forks, and spoons
Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) and regular fluorescent bulbs.

For more information, contact ecomaine at 207-773-1738 or peruse their website at

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