HARPSWELL — Starting in August, residents who recycle trash will no longer have to separate the cardboard from the milk jugs from the beer cans.
That tedious task will go away when the town begins using a single-stream recycling system, which was authorized by the Board of Selectmen at its April 11 meeting.
Harpswell will join approximately 100 other Maine communities using similar programs, according to George MacDonald, sustainability director at the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Depending on how the town promotes the new system at its Recycling Station on Mountain Road, MacDonald said, Harpswell can expect to increase its recycling rate by 5-20 percent.
“We do typically see a bump up in the recycling rate for communities (that use single-stream recycling),” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said single-sort can help produce less trash, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money over time. He said the convenience and amount of marketing done for the new recycling program will determine how effective it is.
“Solid-waste management is part science and part art: how much are you going to put into promoting this single-stream system?,” MacDonald said.
Recycling Manager Fred Cantu said an educational marketing campaign has already started. He said the town has held one informational meeting, and has run a series of promotional spots on the local-access TV channel.
Before the program begins, Cantu said the town will have to sign a new contract with a solid waste management contractor to handle the new system.
Currently, the town has a $108,000, one-year contract with Casella Waste that was approved by the Board of Selectmen with the understanding that recycling services may later be sought.
The town has been considering a single-stream recycling system for several years, in part because the trash-to-recycling ratio has been very consistent, Cantu said.
Last year, the town produced 1,033 tons of trash and 470 tons of recycled materials, Cantu said.
“That’s why we’ve been looking to shake things up: get our trash to drop and recycling to climb,” Cantu said.
Cantu said the town will also save money because the new recycling system won’t require old baling equipment and banding materials that are now being used and won’t have to be replaced.
Besides the financial benefit, Cantu said there’s an intangible one, too.
“From a philosophical perspective, what’s the right thing to do?,” he said. “Recycling is the right thing to do.”