The State of Municipal Solid Waste in Maine

Nomawethu Moyo, Devki Rana, and Cassandra Smith

Executive Summary

The “State of Maine’s Municipal Solid Waste 2014” is the first chapter in The State of Maine’s Environment 2014, a report produced by the Environmental Policy Group in the Environmental Studies Department at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

In this chapter of the report, we examine the historical trends and current state of three solid waste sectors: disposal facilities, recycling and composting, and hazardous household waste (HHW). These three sectors act as indicators of the effectiveness of the Maine’s waste management framework in reducing and safely disposing solid waste. The disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) is currently a growing challenge in Maine due to declining landfill space and environmental pollution. In 2012, Maine generated over 1.3 million tons of MSW, yet only 39.46% of this waste was recycled and composted (Maine DEP, 2014g). Additionally, in 2012 over 20 million pounds of hazardous waste was landfilled, and 40% of landfilled waste was compostable (Maine DEP, 2014c). Our research suggests that Maine is not strictly abiding by its waste management hierarchy, as the state is heavily dependent on landfills and the three remaining state-owned incinerators. Maine has not met its 50% recycling target set in 1989, but the state’s 2012 recycling rate falls in the upper quartile of recycling rates in the US. Using a sample of 50 Maine towns, our research finds that municipal policies like Zero-Sort recycling and Pay-As-You-Throw enhance recycling tonnage in Maine. From 1991 to 2009, Maine has adopted five product stewardship programs for HHW, but has still not met its recovery goals. Drawing from our analysis, we recommend that Maine should develop an integrated composting framework, adopt Pay-As-You-Throw and recycling education, invest in innovative waste conversion technologies, and increase HHW take-back programs. By adopting these recommendations, Maine has the potential to lower waste disposed in landfills while reducing environmental and public health costs.


The disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) is currently a growing challenge in Maine due to declining landfill space, high disposal costs, and risks to public and environmental health. In 2012, according to the Maine DEP, the state generated over 1.3 million tons of MSW, yet only 39.46% of this waste was recycled and composted (Maine DEP, 2014g). Additionally in 2012, 60% of waste generated had the potential to be recycled or composted including over 20 million pounds of household hazardous waste (HHW), but instead these products ended up in landfills and incinerators(NRCM, 2014a)

“The State of Maine’s Municipal Solid Waste 2014″ is the first chapter in The State of Maine’s Environment 2014;we assess current trends of waste generation, by examining three components of the waste management system in Maine. These three components are: incinerators and landfills, recycling and composting, and HHW. Together these components act as indicators of the entire waste management framework through which we can investigate the current state of municipal solid waste (MSW) in Maine. Throughout this report, we use the EPA definition of MSW that includes everyday materials from households, schools, hospitals, and businesses (EPA, 2012b). We also use the Census Bureau to define a municipality as a political subdivision of a state within which there is an administrative local government for a defined city, town, village, or a borough (Census Bureau, n.d.).

In 2011, the University of Maine conducted a study of the types of solid waste produced by Maine residents. Below, Figure 1.1 shows the percentages of MSW by material type disposed by Maine residents.


Figure 1.1 This figure shows the composition of MSW in Maine (Criner & Blackmer, 2012).


In this report, we first examine Municipal Solid Waste Landfills and Municipal Waste Combustors (MWCs) otherwise known as Waste to Energy Facilities (WTE) to evaluate the top two methods of waste disposal used in Maine. Second, we investigated the changes in Maine’s recycling rates over the past two decades and the policies that affect recycling and composting at the municipal level. Third, we examine the handling of products listed as household hazardous waste (HHW) and universal waste in Maine. We specifically focus on the sale and disposal methods of five common household products: batteries, electronic devices, mercury-thermostats, mercury-added lamps, and prescription drugs. Through these three categories, we analyze the effectiveness of current laws and policies on recycling rates and safe waste disposal. We conclude with scenarios and recommendations for the future of waste management in Maine.


In this report, we conducted an extensive literature review and analyzed the 2013 annual solid waste management municipality reports provided by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to assess the current state of municipal solid waste (MSW) in Maine. A literature review of independent waste studies, newspaper articles, along with reports from private companies, the Maine DEP, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) informed us about waste generation trends and current challenges in waste management in Maine. Municipality reports and unpublished Maine DEP spreadsheets informed us about policies that influence waste management, the amount of waste generated, recycling rates, and how the town handles waste. In addition, individual landfill reports submitted to the DEP between 2010 and 2013 provided data about waste disposal and landfill capacity.

We also analyzed the impact of five municipal policies on recycling at the municipal level. We selected municipalities that submitted reports as individual towns, which led us to a sample of 50 municipalities (Appendix 1A). The 50 municipalities in the sample were the only towns that had reported their recycling rates and information regarding recycling and composting policies. Using a confidence level of 95%, we performed 2-sample t-tests with unequal variance using STATA 13 to verify whether the mean recycling rates of municipalities with the policies were significantly different from municipalities without the policies. Since our sample size is small, 50 out of nearly 500 towns, our findings are most relevant to the municipalities whose data we used. Nonetheless, our results are to some extent applicable to most of Maine because the towns in the sample are spread over all 16 counties.
Finally, we used Microsoft Excel to make tables and figures that summarize our findings about the current state of municipal waste. We also used ArcMap version 10.2.2 (Geographic Information System software) to examine the spatial distribution of waste-specific collection sites, municipal compost facilities, and landfill distribution.

Laws and Institutions

A variety of federal and state laws regulate different aspects of waste management in Maine. One of the most important overarching federal laws is The Resource, Conservation, and Recovery Act (RCRA), which deals with the disposal of hazardous waste and sets a framework for the management of non-hazardous solid wastes across the US (42 USC §6901). RCRA motivated the creation of state-level laws like Maine’s Title 38: Waters and Navigation, which tackles waste management in various chapters (Table 1.1).

At the state level, chapters in Maine’s Title 38 address the location and operation of landfills and incinerators in order to protect Maine from environmental degradation and drive technological innovation for waste handling systems. Chapters 21 and 22 require Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to mandate waste reduction goals and provide waste disposal guidance to municipalities. In turn, the Maine DEP requires municipalities to provide waste disposal services to households and businesses(38 MRS §2133). In terms of household hazardous waste (HHW), there are product stewardship laws targeting industry and manufacturers as a way of ensuring safe waste disposal and higher recycling of electronic waste (e-waste), mercury-thermostats, mercury-added lamps, and batteries. In addition to regulations under Title 38, there is also the Bottle Bill (32 MRS §1861) and the Unused Pharmaceutical Disposal Program (22 MRS §2700), which regulate the recovery of beverage containers and unused pharmaceutical drugs respectively. Overall, the effect of federal laws cascades down to states, then municipalities, and splits the responsibility of managing waste in Maine between the state government, municipalities, and the private sector.

Table 1.1 Federal laws applicable to waste management systems in Maine

Controlled Substances Act1973Regulates the use, importation, manufacture, distribution, possession and improper use of specific substances as determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through five schedules; and provides a take-back disposal option for prescription drugs through the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal amendment21 USC §801
Source Separation for Materials Recovery Guidelines1976Mandates the EPA to create guidelines for solid waste disposal, regulations for hazardous waste management, and consequentially, guidance for measuring recycling40 USC §246
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) 1980Places liability and responsibility on the homeowner to properly dispose of hazardous materials42 USC §9607(a)
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) 1990Sets standards for six air pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment42 USC §7409
Clean Air Act (CAA) 1990Requires the EPA to establish new source performance standards and emissions standards for existing units42 USC §7429
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) 1991Establishes standards for landfill locations, liner requirements, removal systems, and groundwater monitoring42 USC §6907
Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Batteries Management Act1996Establishes a program to phase out mercury-containing batteries and provide an efficient and cost-effective collection, recycling, or proper disposal of nickel-cadmium batteries, small sealed batteries, and small sealed lead-acid batteries42 USC §14301


Table 2.2 State laws applicable to waste management systems in Maine

Maine Hazardous Waste, Septage, and Solid Waste Management Act1973Establishes an integrated approach on hazardous and solid waste management to protect the health of the land and citizens38 MRS §1300
Maine Returnable Beverage Container Law1976Regulates the Bottle Bill to reduce litter and solid waste generation, creates incentives for recycling and reuse through a beverage container deposit program32 MRS §1861
Solid Waste Management Hierarchy 1989Ranks how waste should be disposed in order of priority38 MRS §2101
State Goals1989Sets and revises the state goal to recycle or compost 50% of the municipal solid waste generated annually within the state by January 1, 2014 38 MRS §2132
Regulation of Certain Dry-Cell Batteries1991Requires dry-cell battery manufacturers to create a collection system for rechargeable batteries38 MRS §2165
Municipal Recycling1989Clarifies that municipalities are not required to meet the 50% recycling target, but that they must demonstrate reasonable progress (determined by DEP) toward the goal38 MRS §2133
State Government Recycling and Waste Reduction1995Assesses existing programs and develops new programs for recycling to reduce state waste. Requires all University of Maine campuses to establish leaf composting and recycling programs to reduce campus waste38 MRS §2137
Incinerator Particulate Emission Standard1996Limits the amount of particulate matter emitted from all categories of incineration; limits the opacity of emissions from all incinerators38 MRS §585, 585‑A
Mercury-added Products and Services2001Restricts the sale or distribution of mercury-added and mercuric oxide button cell batteries and two mercury-containing batteries (alkaline manganese and zinc-carbon); establishes a collection and recycling site for mercury-thermostats, providing a minimal financial incentive of $5; and bans landfill disposal of mercury-added products38 MRS §1661-B, 1661-C, 1663, 1665
Product Stewardship2009Creates a program in which producers and manufacturers take responsibility for the end-of-life management of their specific products38 MRS §1771-1776
Mercury-added Lamps2009Requires manufacturers of mercury-added lamps sold after 2001 to create a cost-effective recycling and disposal program38 MRS §1672
Landfill siting, design, and operation2010Establishes DEP requirements for the siting, design, and operation of landfills38 MRS §480-B
Solid Waste Management and Disposal Capacity Report 2011Requires the DEP to analyze and plan for the management, reduction and recycling of solid waste for the state-based on the priorities and recycling goals established in sections 2101 and 213238 MRS §2124-A
Unused Pharmaceutical Disposal Program2013Establishes a program that safely, efficiently, and properly disposes of unwanted or unused prescription drugs22 MRS §2700
Maine Solid Waste Management Rules: Composting Facilities2014Regulates the design, siting, and monitoring of new and operational composting facilities excluding certain agricultural composting operations and the composting of small amounts of leaf yard and food waste410 MRS §06-096

Key Characteristics of Waste Management Laws

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for licensing and monitoring Maine’s solid waste facilities; these facilities include landfills, incinerators, waste transfer stations, special waste sites, and recycling and composting operations. The general provisions of the Solid Waste Management Rules of the DEP requires the design of these facilities to prevent the contamination of, any water in the state, ambient air, and also prevent health hazards (EPA, 2013c). Each solid waste disposal facility must also adhere to the additional solid waste requirements as mandated by the DEP: public benefit, recycling and source reduction, host community benefits, liability insurance, and financial assurance (Maine DEP, 2014e). In addition to following the DEP’s general provisions, the State of Maine adheres to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Solid Waste Management Hierarchy (38 MRS § 2101, Figure 1.2)(Maine DEP, 2010, 2014e, 2014g).The Solid Waste Management Hierarchy (38 MRS §2101) sets the priorities in how we handle and process municipal solid waste (MSW). The hierarchy is as follows: (1) source reduction, (2) reuse, (3) recycle, (4) compost, (5) volume reduction, and (6) land disposal. This shows the nation’s commitment towards innovative waste management technologies.



Figure 1.2 This figure shows the waste management hierarchy in Maine (Maine DEP, 2014).

There are federal laws that target the recycling of specific nuisance wastes, and the recycling of high-grade paper, newspapers, and corrugated cardboard by federal facilities that generate high volumes of waste (40 USC §246). Federal law also mandates the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create guidelines for solid waste disposal, regulations for hazardous waste management, and consequently, guidance for measuring recycling (40 USC §246). However, there are no federal laws that explicitly mandate the recycling of non-hazardous waste in the US; this task is left to the jurisdiction of the states.

After the enactment of RCRA, Maine, in 1989, initially set a non-statutory goal to recycle or compost 50% of its municipal solid waste (MSW) by 1998 (38 MRS §2132). The State goal was revised thrice, in 2001, 2005, and 2011 to postpone the deadline each time (38 MRS§2132). The Maine DEP is also expected to design and implement a strategy to encourage public recycling programs to reach maximum feasible levels of recycling towards the 50% goal, yet it is unclear how the DEP actually does this beyond collecting data (38 MRS §2133).

In this same year 1989, Maine also banned the creation of new commercial landfills and began a process of landfill remediation and closure (Maine DEP, 2012a). The Maine DEP in the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management established the Solid Waste Landfill Closure and Remediation Program within the DEP. Under this program, 397 unlined landfills were closed, but the program ran out of money before completing its goals(Maine DEP, 2012a, 2014a). This program coincided with the increased RCRA and DEP siting and management requirements allowing Maine to better handle waste and public health threats from landfills(Maine DEP, 2010, 2014a).

To adequately manage and control the collection, processing, and handling of household hazardous waste (HHW), Maine, along with 31 other states, have enacted The Product Stewardship Framework Law (38 MRS §1771-1776; Maine DEP, 2014).This framework creates general regulations and affirms product-specific programs that focus on the recycling and safe disposal of HHW (Maine DEP, 2014). These product stewardship programs manage specific products’ manufacture, use, and end-of-life management by splitting responsibility amongst manufacturers, importers, retailers, government officials, and consumers to lessen the toxic impacts to human health and the environment (Cassel, 2008). From 1991-2009, Maine has enacted five product-specific stewardship programs for: dry mercuric oxide and rechargeable batteries, mercury auto switches, electronic waste, mercury thermostats, and mercury-added lamps (Maine DEP, 2014). A specific product stewardship recycling program was also created for cell phones. Some non-profit organizations voluntarily facilitate the management and collection for some HHW products. In addition, Maine plans to adopt a product stewardship program for paint in 2015 (Maine DEP, 2014). Four out of the five HHW products discussed in this report fall under the Product Stewardship Law: electronic devices, batteries, mercury-thermostats, mercury-added lamps (Appendix 1C).


Three types of stakeholders comprise Maine’s waste management: governmental agencies, the public, and the private sector. Important governmental stakeholders include the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Other public stakeholders include residents, and municipalities. The Private sector includes industry, private companies, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Federal Agencies

Federal agencies set regulations and guidelines on solid waste disposal, recycling, and hazardous waste disposal. Agencies such as the EPA are responsible for the state level implementation of federal laws, environmental standards, and state-level contributions to overall national environmental degradation. Similarly, federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are responsible for handling regulations pertaining to prescription drugs.

State Agencies

Specific state agencies provide guidance and implementation plans for waste management. These agencies specifically set state goals and delegate waste disposal services to municipalities. Agencies such as the Maine DEP and the EPA are responsible for the licensing and monitoring of Maine’s solid waste facilities and transfer stations, as well as regulating various management programs.


Municipalities are entirely responsible for the management of waste disposal. They are required to provide waste disposal and recycling services to households and businesses, and provide waste reduction and safe waste disposal education to all their residents.

The Public

Maine residents are responsible for the generation of waste, are affected by implemented municipal policies, and invest in the future success of waste management. Residents bear the costs of waste disposal and recycling through direct payments or through taxes. Their actions are also very important to the waste management systems, as their household behavior affects waste generation and disposal.

The Private Sector

Privately-owned companies within the waste management system adhere to Maine regulations and provide waste collection services to residents. By providing these services, these companies are able to determine costs of waste disposal and recycling to either residents or municipalities. Maine Waste-To-Energy facilities have the ability to potentially lobby in favor of incineration efforts, and can also influence public opinion of incineration through the distribution of reports in favor of this technology. Local farmers are able to control the market for compost and are capable of initiating composting programs. This influences participation in recycling programs. A few key stakeholders of the private sector in Maine are briefly described below.

  • Casella Resource Solutions provides curbside pick-up of waste and recyclables through municipality or household contracts and offers single-stream recycling and harvests methane gas from landfills.
  • ecomaine is owned by 20 Maine municipalities (ecomaine, n.d.) This company provides single-stream recycling for its 20 owners and an additional 26 contracted communities. ecomaine often conducts community outreach programs to promote waste reduction and influences waste disposal costs. ecomaine also has a Waste-To-Energy facility that incinerates waste and provides energy to a limited number of municipalities
  • WasteZero partners with municipalities to deliver waste reduction programs like Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) that transfer waste disposal costs to residents. Through PAYT, WasteZero is affects waste disposal costs.

NGOs partner with municipalities or residents to help manage and facilitate waste management system and its programs as determined by the State. For example, The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) promotes voluntary action and public perceptions of proper waste management. NRCM focuses on raising awareness on waste management issues that exist throughout Maine communities (NRCM, 2014).

Specific in HHW management, NGOs voluntarily facilitate the product-specific stewardship management programs. The following organizations are examples of some organizations that are involved in the management of household hazardous waste: Call2Recycle, Efficiency Maine, Thermostat Recycling Corporation, and National Electric Manufacturers Association. These organizations take on responsibility to deal with logistics of management such as determining collection sites and compiling annual data. They also have potential to change governmental action in terms of product stewardship management through their consistent monitoring and documenting of rates and transfer stations in-take as well as through conducting studies on household behaviors and attitudes towards product-specific recycling.


Manufacturers of HHW products are primarily important as a stakeholder in the waste management system because of the responsibility some attain through the product stewardship program. The program requires these manufacturers to establish a balance with the government on selling and distributing their products, managing their products’ end-of-life (when a product can no longer be used), and providing the necessary funds for recycling programs. Manufactures also have lobbying potential that can either affect the waste management programs positively or negatively depending on the specific industry. Positive influences could result from manufacturers agreeing to monitor products’ end-of-life management and negative influences could result from resistance to deal with collection and recycling.

Incineration facilities are also an important stakeholder in the waste management system because of the economic and environmental impact they have on other stakeholders in Maine waste management (Criner, 2013; Duchesne, 2013; Gabe, 2011, 2013; Williams, 2011). These disposal facilities provide jobs to Maine residents, as well as keep waste from ending up in landfills. However, incineration facilities are contributors to the creation of renewable energy in Maine, while also affecting public and environmental health impacts.

State of Municipal Solid Waste

In order to investigate the current state of municipal solid waste in Maine, we focus on three areas of the management system: disposal facilities (landfills and incinerators), recycling and composting, and recycling and safe disposal of household hazardous waste (HHW).

Disposal Facilities

In this section, we address trends in MSW in Maine, the state’s management plan, environmental and public health concerns, and the current state of incinerators and landfills.

State Waste Trends

Historically, waste generation and management trends in Maine have reflected national waste trends. The 1980s and 1990s were pivotal for solid waste management in both the state and the nation (Williams, 2011). Prior to 1988, many municipalities in Maine and across the country stored their waste in unlined landfills (Maine DEP, 2012a). At this time in Maine, both the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Solid Waste Program and Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) established stricter regulations for the construction of solid waste holding facilities at the same time recycling programs and incinerator technology were gaining popularity (Maine DEP, 2012a; Williams, 2011). In this time period, many landfills were closing down all over Maine. Between 1989 and 2000, the DEP’s Closure and Remediation program provided $79 million to municipalities to close down improper landfills (Maine DEP, 2012a). This resulted in the closure of 397 unlined landfills in Maine alone and around 10,000 nationally (Biocycle, 2010; Maine DEP, 2012a; Williams, 2011). In Maine, the closure of landfills was due to three compounding factors: (1) increased standards from both RCRA and the DEP, (2) increased money from both RCRA and DEP, and (3) rising cost of waste due to these increased standards (EPA, 2014b; Maine DEP, 2012a).

Maine currently has some of the highest landfill tipping fees both regionally and nationally ranging anywhere from $35-$85 (Biocycle, 2010; Williams, 2011). On average, the Northeast has the highest tipping fees in the nation, and Maine has the second highest tipping fee in New England after Vermont (Biocycle, 2010; Williams, 2011). Proponents of Waste to Energy (WTE) technology have noted that states with higher landfill tipping fees have more success with WTE implementation(Williams, 2011).

WTE facilities, specifically incinerators or municipal waste combustors (MWC), have had a rocky history both nationally and within the state. Overall, according to the EPA, nine different categories of combustion facilities in the US: large MWCs, small MWCs, hospital/medical/infectious waste incinerators, hazardous waste incinerators, commercial and industrial incinerators, solid waste incinerators, sewage sludge incinerators, hazardous waste and manufacturing waste incinerators, boilers and industrial furnaces, and industrial, commercial, and institutional boilers (EPA, 2013b, 2013c). Maine however, has only one category of combustion unit, small MWC (Figure 1.3).


Figure 1.3 This visual representation shows the locations of incinerations facilities and landfills in Maine by county with their size correlated to their remaining landfill capacity (DEP, 2010-2013).

In the state, there are three units remaining after Maine Energy Recovery Company (MERC) in Biddeford closed, these are: ecomaine in Portland, Mid-Maine Waste Action Corporation (MMWAC) in Auburn, and Penobscot Energy Company (PERC) in Orrington (Figure 1.3). (Duchesne, 2013; EPA, 2013b, 2013c; Gabe, 2013). The closure of MERC marked a turning point for WTE facilities in Maine. All of these facilities currently generate, electricity using MSW and commercial waste, and before the closure of MERC processed 75% of the MSW in Maine (Duchesne, 2013). The MERC incinerator was in downtown Biddeford, and according to both Toxic Action Center in Maine and the Portland Press Herald, MERC was shut down due to emissions violations, truck traffic, odor, and public health and environmental impacts, including contaminated soils with dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls(Center, 2012; Graham, 2012). Very little new data has surfaced after the closure of MERC. In 2011, Maine was ranked 11th nationally in terms of “trash capacity” incineration per day, and Maine is one of 25 states that defines WTE as a renewable energy source (Gabe, 2013; Williams, 2011).

Overall, the Maine DEP 2010 data shows that Maine residents generated less MSW per person than any other New England states, and historically, Maine has seen positive association with the economy and waste disposal (Figure 1.4) (Maine DEP, 2012a, 2012b). When the economy is doing well, people generally create more MSW. However, Maine currently has only 67% of the projected needed landfill capacity for the next 20 years constructed(Maine DEP, 2012b). There is concern that the declining landfill capacity will cause the already high waste costs to increase. Over the last four years, however, Maine has experienced downward trends in the production of MSW, from 755,086 tons in 2008 to 713,713 tons in 2012 (Maine DEP, 2012). In 2010, the average Maine resident generated and disposed 0.56 tons (1,074 pounds) per person (Figure 1.4). These numbers are aligned with the state waste reduction goals, but as shown in Figure 1.5, much of what ends up in landfills has the potential to be recycled or composted (Maine DEP, 2014g).


Figure 1.4 This figure shows the 2010 amount of waste generated in tons per capita (Maine DEP, 2012b).


Figure 1.5 This figure shows the composition of disposed MSW in Maine that ends up in landfills (Maine DEP, 2013e).

2014 Maine Waste Management Plan

Every five years, the Maine DEP is responsible for generating a ‘Maine Solid Waste and Recycling Plan’ in accordance with 38 MRS §2122; which directs municipalities in waste management and recycling planning (Maine DEP, 2012). Each plan guides programs at a state, regional, and local level, as well as identifies trends and changes in municipal solid waste (MSW), incorporates disposal technologies, and identifies new waste generating factors that may affect waste management. The DEP views this Plan as a way to support the Solid Waste Management Hierarchy (Figure 1.2) (Maine DEP, 2014d).

Both the EPA and the Maine DEP use a Solid Waste Management Hierarchy to guide municipal waste policy (Figure 1.2). At the top of the hierarchy, we see the prioritized and preferred waste handling efforts: waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. The hierarchy place composting next, which is often in conjunction with recycling efforts and the last two and least preferred methods of disposal are volume reduction and landfilling. Volume reduction often includes waste conversion technologies and incineration. We see that even though both landfilling and volume reduction are the least preferred methods of disposal, they are the most used both nationally and within the state.

The 2014 Plan outlines the priorities for sustainable materials management for years 2014-2018: (1) enabling the development of innovative technological development (including separation of waste stream and utilization of organics) (2) promoting increased beneficial use and recycling of materials (including identification of incentives and removal of unnecessary barriers)(3) supplying tools to municipalities and businesses in support of waste reduction and diversion effects, and (4) refining data sources and data management systems to assess progress toward statewide reduction and recycling goals, and to evaluate the effectiveness of programs (Maine DEP, 2012b)

Each of these priorities has specific strategies and actions outlined to help guide municipalities and businesses in the implementation of Maine’s desired waste management visions. In addition to this Plan, Maine has statutory goals for waste reduction (38 MRS § 2132), which specifically focus on MSW “[The State] sets a State goal of reducing the biennial generation of municipal solid waste tonnage by 5% beginning January 1, 2009 and by an additional 5% every subsequent 2 years (38 MRS § 2122).” To aid in the achievement of the goal, the Plan provides details about new waste conversion technologies that if developed would further divert materials from current disposal facilities (Maine DEP, 2012b).

Determination of Public Benefit

As evidenced by the closure of the MERC, public opposition can influence factors on the success or failure of a disposal facility. The Commissioner of the Maine DEP must determine a substantial Public Benefit before a company may submit an application for a license to build a new or expanded facility. In order to receive a Determination of Public Benefit from the Commissioner, the applicant must demonstrate that the proposed facility meets immediate, short term, or long-term capacity needs of the state. Immediate needs are defined as within three years, short-term as over the next five years, and the long-term as within the following ten years. The proposed facility must align with the state solid waste management hierarchy (Figure 1.2) and not inconsistent with local, regional, or state waste collection, storage, transportation, processing, or disposal. Lastly, the proposed facility can only accept out of state waste if it is impossible to meet the operational standards otherwise. Operational standards are a minimum capacity a facility must take in to remain operational. Maine does not wish to be a site for out of state waste and maintains that the public should benefit from the handling of waste in the state (Maine DEP, 2014f). In creating these standards, the DEP makes it more challenging for Maine to be a regional collector of waste.

The Commissioner determines Public Benefit by considering: (1) the application and supporting documents, (2) the State plan, (3) other relevant written information, and (4) public comments made to the Department at the mandatory public meeting and during application processing. One of the largest components of determining Public Benefit comes from the mandatory public meeting. This gives the public some power in determining which facilities are built and where.Written comments from the public are accepted until the Commissioner makes a decision. The Commissioner must hold a public meeting in the area of the proposed facility to take public comments. The DEP’s Board of Environmental Protection does not have absolute authority for decision; the Commissioner’s decision may be appealed to the Board. Maine allows the public to be involved in the decision-making processes of incinerators and landfills (Maine DEP, 2014e, 2014f).


Incinerators or MWC facilities are the fifth prioritized method of disposal in the state of Maine according to the waste management hierarchy (Figure 1.2) (EPA, 2013a). MWCs help reduce the rate at which landfill space is used and have served over 290 municipalities in Maine (Duchesne, 2013). Combustion is favored over landfilling both nationally and within the state according to the waste management hierarchy and accounts for 0.4% of the total US power generation and about 12% of waste processing (Biocycle, 2010; Williams, 2011). The ability of these facilities to reduce the volume of MSW by about 90% and the weight by 75%, as well as utilize the heat to generate electricity makes these facilities more desirable than landfills in some respects (Duchesne, 2013). Over the years, Maine incinerators have processed over 16 million tons of MSW, equating to about 12 million tons of unprocessed waste(Duchesne, 2013; Gabe, 2013). Not all states in the US have MWCs or waste conversion facilities. Maine is one of 37 states, including the District of Columbia, to have incineration facilities and one of 25 states with incineration facilities that define incineration as renewable energy source (Williams, 2011).

However, there is a higher cost of processing waste in incinerators as compared to landfill storage (Gabe, 2011, 2013). This price discrepancy is often contentious for municipalities and incineration companies. With the concern of declining landfill space statewide, these incineration facilities can be a way to create jobs, handle waste, and foster ‘renewable energy’. It is estimated that MWCs companies in Maine generates $13.1 million in labor income annually and $101.1 million in revenue, and creates 404 full and part time jobs (Gabe, 2011; Duchesne, 2013). It was also estimated that if all three incinerators in Maine were to close down and the waste was stored in landfills, both the state and municipalities would lose about $12.6 million in taxes and fees on average between 2011 and 2029 (Gabe, 2013). However, economic impacts are not the only factors in play for incineration facilities, there are several environmental and public health factors as well.

MWCs can be very similar to fossil fuel power plants in their effects on the environment (EPA, 2011). Incinerators are regulated under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The CAA places emissions standards on new MWC and the 1995 amendments of the CAA were developed to control the emission of dioxins, mercury, hydrogen chloride, and particulate matter(EPA, 2014c). However, the Maine DEP has named carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (NO2) the gases of most concern from these facilities (Maine DEP, 1998, 2012b, 2013e, 2014b, 2014e). The CAA standards did, however, modify the burning process and authorize the use of activated carbon injection into the air pollution control system to try and remove mercury, dioxins, and hydrocarbons from the gas stream (Duchesne, 2013). Although it has been illegal for several years, many people continue to throw mercury-containing items (NRCM, 2013) (old thermometers, thermostats, florescent lights, etc.) in with their household waste. ecomaine in particular, manages to eliminate about 90% of the mercury emissions, but MWCs are still the largest contributors of mercury in New England and also contribute to 5% of the overall GHG emissions in Maine (Maine DEP, 2014b, 2014e)(ecomaine, n.d.).

In addition to the environmental concerns, according to the EPA air pollutants from MWCs can cause potentially adverse health effects in the general public (EPA, 2013c).The combustion of MSW produces nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide as well as trace amounts of toxic pollutants, such as dioxins and mercury as previously stated. Lead, mercury, and dioxins can bioaccumulate in the environment, and both lead and mercury can affect the central nervous system and long-term exposure can impair brain function and development (EPA, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c). These pollutants bioaccumulate meaning that they do not break down in the environment and persist, increase, and damage the health of both people and the environment. Emissions also can contribute to acid rain, ground level ozone, fine particulate matter, polychlorinated biphenyls, and regional haze (EPA, 2013c). These implications must be considered when comparing the costs and benefits of incinerators and landfills.


Currently, landfills are the sixth and least preferred method of disposal in the state of Maine according to the DEP and the EPA, yet landfills are the most used method of disposal (Maine DEP, 2013e). In recent years, declining landfill space has caused concern about rising economic costs of waste disposal and the future of waste in Maine. There are currently 50 active landfills under varying classifications. Of the 50 active landfills, Maine has only three state owned landfills, one commercial landfill, and two ash landfills. The other 42 landfills are municipally owned (Figure 1.3) (EPA, 2014b; Maine DEP, 2014a). The lack of commercial landfills in Maine is due to a 1989 ban on the creation of new commercial landfills, which authorized the state to locate and design new solid waste landfills (Maine DEP, 2012).

Literature suggests that Maine is not situated well for landfills. Many proponents of revised waste management believe that Maine has high public opposition to the opening of new landfills, a high environmental consciousness, and increased siting standards that suggest landfills in Maine are not easily put in place (Biocycle, 2010; Duchesne, 2013; Gabe, 2011). This is supported by the closure of MERC and the small amount of landfills statewide (Figure 1.3)(Maine DEP, 2014a). With the implications for Determination of Public Benefit, landfills are time consuming and expensive process to put in place (Maine DEP, 2014f). In addition to the implementation concerns there are also environmental concerns, with landfills that are factors to consider in the future of Maine’s landfills.

Subsurface and surface migration of landfill gas (LFG) otherwise known as leachate is a large environmental concern for landfills everywhere (EPA, 2014c). As defined by the EPA, subsurface migration is the underground movement of LFG from landfills to other areas within the landfill property or outside the landfill property. This is most common in old, unlined landfills. RCRA as of October 9, 1993 requires the lining of landfills, which decreases the likelihood of subsurface migration, but does not eliminate it entirely(EPA, 2014c). LFG contains approximately 50% methane, which is potentially an explosive gas, making it also possible for LFG to travel underground, accumulate in enclosed structures, and ignite. Incidences of subsurface migration have caused fires and explosions on both landfill property and private property (EPA, 2013a). However, these are not the only concerns regarding landfills.

The uncontrolled surface emissions of LFG into the air are an important to consider when thinking about landfills. Like incinerators, LFG contains carbon dioxide, methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), and odorous compounds that can adversely affect public health and the environment (EPA, 2013a). Landfills also have odor concerns associated with their construction and the emission of these compounds. These smells can travel off site to nearby communities and businesses. This odor lowers the quality of life for people who live near landfills and reduce local property values (EPA, 2013a). The emissions from the leachate produced in landfills are correlated to the products that end up in landfills. This is important to note when considering whether the materials are hazardous or had the potential to be recycled. Maine currently has two-landfill gas to energy projects (LFGTE) that convert leachate from landfills into energy similar to the concept of incineration without the burning. These LFGTE options have the ability to power 3,000 homes each and are a major innovation for these two landfills. Prior to the implementation of these projects, the LFG was flared into the air. LFGTE projects are increasingly a viable option for states like Maine who have a stated commitment in their 2014 State Waste Management and Recycling Plan to support municipalities and businesses in waste management and encourage the development of new infrastructure (Maine DEP, 2014d, 2014g).

Information is less readily available on the economic benefits of landfills in Maine. This is because 42 of the 50 landfills in Maine are municipally owned and therefore generate their own separate landfill reports submitted to the DEP (Maine DEP, 2014a). However, it is noted that it takes an average of eight years to properly site a landfill in Maine, which is an expensive process (Criner, 2013). After their closure, landfills require monitoring and funding over a 30-year period (Maine DEP, 2012). Both landfills and incinerators have high startup costs ranging in the tens of millions of dollars to site, design, and implement the construction of these waste management facilities (Criner & Blackmer, 2012; Duchesne, 2013). Both incineration and landfilling have dire economic, environmental, and political challenges that are likely to persist into the future.

Recycling and Composting


An important policy driving recycling rates in Maine is the State’s goal to recycle and compost 50% of municipal solid waste (MSW) (38 MRS §1305). Maine municipalities are not required to meet the 50% recycling target, but are obliged to demonstrate “reasonable progress” towards that goal and annually report their waste generation to the DEP (38 MRS §2133.7). However, the State does not explicitly define what constitutes “reasonable progress,” which is problematic because there is ambiguity in measuring and evaluating municipalities’ improvements in recycling efforts. Municipalities are entirely responsible for the provision of waste disposal and recycling services. As of 2011, municipalities managed approximately 38% of recycling programs, and the remainder by privately owned (Maine DEP, 2012b). However, monitoring the capacity of all private recycling companies is difficult, as they are not legally obligated to report their activities.

The Maine DEP is required to give municipalities guidance in organizing and executing waste disposal and recycling at the state, regional, and local government levels through annual waste management reports (38 MRS §2122). Additionally, the DEP is expected to incorporate changes in factors that affect solid waste management into its reports (38 MRS §2122). According to State reports and management plans from the past seven years, Maine experienced a reduction in recycling capacity when the Maine Energy Recovery Company (MERC) closed in 2012 (Maine DEP, 2013e). MSW that was formally sent to MERC is now delivered to other disposal facilities.

Maine is also one of 10 US states that have a Bottle Bill law licensing beverage container deposit programs (32 MRS §1861). Generally, states that have the Bottle Bill have higher beverage container recycling rates (Figure 1.6), and consequentially have higher overall recycling rates as well (Container Recycling Initiative, 2013). Maine adopted the Bottle Bill in 1976, and to date, the state boasts a 90% recovery rate of all sealable beverage containers made of aluminum, glass, or PET plastic, and with a volume under four liters (Container Recycling Initiative, 2013). The Bottle Bill in Maine offers a $0.15 deposit refund for wine or liquor containers and $0.05 for all other containers (Container Recycling Initiative, 2013). Bottle deposits offer individuals an economic incentive to participate thereby encouraging a high rate of beverage container recycling or reuse. The Bottle Bill also lowers production costs for industry because reusing or recycling bottles is cheaper than using raw materials to produce new containers. Litter reduction is another benefit of the Bottle Bill, by 1990, Maine observed an 80% reduction in beverage container litter and a 38% reduction in total litter (US GAO, 1990). Maine also permits participating retail stores and redemption centers to form commingling agreements, which allow for the collection of beverage containers by product categories like beer, wine, and soft drinks. Commingling agreements make the sorting process less labor intensive and lead to lower handling and transportation costs for distributors.


Figure 1.6 A comparison of three types of beverage containers recycled by states that have the Bottle Bill and those that do not have the Bottle Bill (CRI, 2013).

Calculation of Recycling Rates

The types of wastes included in the calculation of recycling rates differ across US states. In this report, we use the base municipal recycling rate (hereinafter referred to as the recycling rate) and the standard MSW recycling rate. The calculation of recycling rates in Maine is shown in Figure 1.7.


Figure 1.7 The formula for calculating the municipal recycling rate in Maine.

The recycling rate calculated using the formula in Figure 1.7 is reliable in comparing recycling efforts amongst Maine municipalities only. On the other hand, the EPA excludes construction and demolition debris (CDD) from its computation of the standard MSW recycling rate (EPA, n.d.). Unlike Maine, other US states use the EPA’s method of calculating the standard MSW recycling rate (EPA, n.d.).  In order to compare Maine’s performance to other states, we use Maine’s 2012 standard MSW recycling rate of 42.38%, which was calculated using additional data from more privately owned waste collection and recycling companies (Maine DEP, 2014).

Recycling Trends in Maine

After setting the recycling goal of 50% in 1989, Maine’s recycling rate grew rapidly from 32.50% to 41.50% over six years due to statutory requirements, state funded recycling education programs, and strong partnership efforts amongst stakeholders (Maine SPO, 2009a). When the state failed to meet the 50% target by 1998, its deadline was postponed, first to 2005, then 2009, and lastly January 2014 (Maine SPO, 2009b). To date, the state has not met this goal and the most recent recycling rate calculated for Maine is 39.60% in 2012 (Maine DEP, 2014d). As shown in Figure 1.8, in the past two decades, Maine’s recycling rate peaked at 41.50% in 1995, then declined thereafter (Maine SPO, 2009b). Prior to the economic recession, as the state experienced rapid economic growth, the amount of municipal waste generated by Mainers increased at a faster rate than the growth of recycling capacity. Consequently, recycling rates fell to 34.28% in 2007 (Maine SPO, 2009a). From 2008 onwards, recycling rates improved and part of this improvement is attributed to better data collection (Maine DEP, 2014). Despite these improvements, in 2011, 39.87% (Figure 1.5) of the MSW thrown out by households was compostable, while an additional 21.72% was recyclable (Criner & Blackmer, 2012). These numbers indicate that there is need for more recycling and composting in Maine, which is why we focus on waste reduction at the end of its life cycle and not source waste reduction.


Figure 1.8 Changes in the Maine statewide recycling rate of municipal waste over a period of about two decades (Maine SPO, 2011, Maine DEP, 2014).

Composting in Maine

According to Maine Solid Waste Management Rules (CMR 41006-096), composting facility monitoring is limited to only new and operational facilities, excluding certain agricultural operations and the composting of small amounts of yard and food waste. This means that overall composting is underestimated, as there are no regulations to monitor backyard or other small-scale composting initiatives. The total amount of MSW composted is incorporated into Maine’s recycling rate, but when considered separately, in 2012, Maine composted about 10.85% of its MSW (Maine DEP, 2014). This percentage is still very low considering that in 2011 nearly 40% of landfilled and incinerated waste was compostable (Criner & Blackmer, 2012).  In 2011, food waste made up 14.5% of MSW generated, and only 1.6% of the total waste recycled and composted in the US (EPA, 2014a). Although Maine composted a larger proportion than the US, there remains room for improvement in composting.

Maine DEP’s Compost Facility Report for 2014 listed 91 registered active public and privately owned compost facilities that offer at least yard waste composting in Maine (Maine DEP, 2014d). The majority of the materials composted at these facilities consist of yard trimmings and limited food waste (Levis, Barlaz, Themelis, & Ulloa, 2010; Scozzafava, 2003). Some municipalities have more than one compost facility; therefore, the 91 registered facilities are spread over a total of only 81 out of nearly 500 municipalities in Maine (Maine DEP, 2014). None of the Maine Island populations have a registered municipal composting facility. It is also likely that each of the 91 compost facilities also receive organic waste from neighboring municipalities within close proximity. Consequently, the exact number of municipalities served by the active compost facilities in Maine is unknown but most of them are generally located in Southern Maine where there is high population density (Figure 1.9).



Figure 1.9 A map showing the spatial distribution of municipal composting facilities relative to the population density in Maine (Maine DEP, 2014; Census Bureau, n.d.).

Maine’s Performance Relative to the Rest of the US

In comparison to the rest of the US, Maine seems to be doing relatively well in terms of MSW recycling rates. Maine’s 2012 standard MSW recycling rate of 42.38% falls within the upper quartile of states in the US (EPA, 2014a). This value is also higher than the 2012 US overall MSW recycling rate of 34.50% (EPA, 2014a). A study of the energy and economic value of MSW suggests that, based on 2011 data, Maine was the national leader with a recycling rate of 48% (Themelis & Mussche, 2014). However, the recycling rates reported by Themelis and Mussche are inconsistent with the values reported by the Maine DEP and the EPA. This is because Themelis and Mussche included packaging from imported goods, municipal wastewater sludge, CDD, and all small-scale manufacturing waste in their recycling rate calculations. Nonetheless, the high recycling rates provided by Themelis and Mussche still speak to the overall trends in recycling rates across the US.

Household Hazardous Waste


Many everyday products contain potentially dangerous toxins and chemicals that are categorized as hazardous wastes and universal wastes (Maine DEP, 2013f). General hazardous wastes are broken up into two categories: hazardous by characteristics, and listed hazardous waste. Waste that is hazardous by characteristics has at least one of the following attributes: (1) ignitability, (2) corrosivity, (3) reactivity, and (4) toxicity. Listed hazardous wastes include four different categories: (1) non-specific sources, (2) specific sources, (3) commercial chemical products, intermediates or off-specification products – either listed as acute or non-acute waste, and (4) polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) (Maine DEP, 2013f). A universal waste is a type of hazardous waste, such as batteries, certain lamps and fluorescent bulbs, mercury devices, and mercury thermostats (Maine DEP, 2013f).

In this chapter, we focus on five products that are either are hazardous waste, universal waste, or a combination of the two. Since these HHWs are extremely toxic (Maine DEP, 2013f), special disposal and conscious behavior of the effects of improper disposal are critical to maintaining a safe environment and healthy citizens. The products’ program’s facilitator (manufacturer, NGO, or private company) assigns disposal facilities or transfer stations to collect HHW products for proper recycling or safe disposal. Since many municipalities throughout Maine do not have access to or are not near a facility for HHW products, the state or municipality is required to then host annual or semi-annual collection events for HHW disposal. Although transfer stations are not located in every municipality, some exist where designated neighboring municipalities may dispose of their waste, as shown in Figure 1.10.


Figure 1.10 The visual representation shows the distribution of transfer stations that collect batteries, mercury-thermostats, electronic devices, and fluorescent bulbs. Additionally, the map groups the transfer stations and their designated municipalities by color (Maine DEP, 2011; Maine Office of GIS, 2014).

Electronic Waste

Electronic wastes (e-waste) are defined as old or unusable electronic devices (Appendix 1B). When taken apart, burned, or improperly disposed of, these e-wastes contain hazardous chemicals (such as lead and mercury), thus categorizing them as hazardous and universal wastes (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011; Maine DEP, 2013c). Due to the lack of access to efficient recycling programs, these chemicals are often incinerated and or landfilled, which pollutes Maine’s air, soil, and drinking water (NRCM, 2014b). Recycling e-waste not only protects our surrounding environment, but also prevents excess greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and natural resource extraction that occurs when mining and processing raw materials used to make electronic devices. E-waste recycling in Maine has prevented more than 600 million pounds of carbon-equivalent emissions from being emitted into the atmosphere (NRCM, 2014b). However, when e-wastes are improperly disposed of, toxic substances in the devices are released, of which the most concerning is lead. Lead exposure can cause severe health and environmental consequences; for example, brain and kidney damage and anemia to humans, as well as, harmful exposure to wildlife such as fish and birds (NRCM, 2014b).

According to a waste characterization study in 2011, 0.92% of Maine’s sampled solid waste was electronic devices. Of that, 73.7% were small consumer electronics, 14.2% were computer-related, and 12.1% were other large electronics (Criner & Blackmer, 2012). From 2000 to 2006, the generation of e-waste nationally, increased by approximately 52% in weight (NRCM, 2014b). Through a waste management lens, the preferred handling method for e-waste is to reuse and recycle rather than dispose; because the materials used to produce these devices are expensive. The end-of-life disposal of these devices removes valuable resources from the manufacturing system, requiring more mining and processing of virgin ores and precious metals to make new devices, which causes environmental impacts in itself.

The total number of electronic devices shipped for recycling and disposal declined from 64,528 units in 2005 to 42,627 units in 2006 (Figure 1.11). In 2006, a product stewardship program for electronic devices was adopted through Maine’s Product Stewardship Framework Law (Maine DEP, 2013b). The program caused significant change in disposal rates and amount of HHW collected (Figure 1.11) and shifted management responsibility to the manufacturers. As of 2014, there are an estimated ten million pounds of televisions and computer monitors in Maine households that could be recycled each year in Maine(NRCM, 2014b). Since 2006, the state has recycled over 37 million pounds of e-waste, saving an estimated four million pounds of lead from entering our landfills and incinerators. The product stewardship management has also decreased disposal fees, increased recycling locations and events, created jobs, and reduced costs for local governments and taxpayers by $11 million (NRCM, 2014b). Maine is at the forefront of e-waste recycling nationwide, and has one of the highest pounds per person rates in the country (6.57) in 2012 (Maine DEP, 2014c). However, Maine’s municipalities continue to face an issue of disposal fees, user eligibility, and frequency of collection and disposal (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011). There are still televisions, computers, and other devices in Maine’s landfills and incinerators. National statistics show 40% of the lead and 70% of the heavy metals found in landfills are directly associated to the improper disposal of electronic devices (NRCM, 2014b).


Figure 1.11 The figure shows the total number of electronic devices shipped for recycling or disposal in Maine (Maine DEP, 2013b).


Many types of batteries are identified through disposal and management programs or environmental agencies. Some of the most common are dry-cell batteries, an umbrella term including: alkaline and zinc-carbon (everyday household batteries such as 9-volt, AA, AAA, D, and C), mercuric-oxide (button, cylindrical, and rectangular), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, and rechargeable batteries) (Maine DEP, 2013a). These types of dry-cell batteries contain heavy metals required to produce the battery’s power.

The 1996 federal Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Batteries Act (24 USC §14301) phased out mercury-containing batteries, and made it easier for manufacturers and consumers to recycle them. Since they are no longer sold, there are fewer mercury-containing batteries in households throughout Maine. However, batteries that were purchased prior to 1996 do require recycling. By disposing of batteries in incinerators and landfills, heavy metals and mercury are emitted into our air, soil, and drinking water systems. Additionally, recycling saves resources because plastics and metals from spent or used batteries can be repurposed and reused to make new batteries (EPA, 2012a).

Maine was the first state to pass a product stewardship program through the Product Stewardship Framework Law (38 MRS §2165) for dry-cell batteries in 1991. Since its enactment, private organizations, such as Call2Recycle, have volunteered to facilitate battery take-back management. The batteries are reused to make new batteries, cement products, or stainless steel alloys (Call2Recycle, 2013). Call2Recycle offers a free recycling program for rechargeable batteries. Single-use batteries (primary or disposal batteries like alkaline or zinc-carbon) can also be recycled. However, the State of Maine does not offer any free recycling programs. Citizens are required to find a nearby business or transfer station that collects that specific battery (Maine DEP, 2013a).

Industry and manufacturers like Duracell claim that in most cases, normal alkaline batteries can be thrown out with regular MSW in small quantities, since mercury has been removed from most alkaline commercial batteries (Heritage Environmental Services, n.d.). Battery product stewardship management was created in 1991, but the number of batteries shipped for recycling or disposal has remained relatively low until 2009 as shown in Figure 1.12. After the 2009 increase, the number remains high, in comparison to years prior to 2009, but the units recycled or disposed of fluctuate and are inconsistent.

Figure 1.12

Figure 1.12 The figure shows the total number of batteries shipped for recycling or disposal in Maine (Maine DEP, 2013b).

Mercury-Thermostats and Mercury-added Lamps

In this section, we assess the state of mercury-thermostats and mercury-added lamps. The sale and distribution of mercury-thermostats was banned in 2006 because of the four-grams (or a thimbleful) of mercury in each device (38 MRS §1663). Mercury-added lamps (Appendix 1B) include a variety of different electrical lamps or bulbs. However, for the purpose of the report, we primarily address fluorescent bulbs, including compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and long tube or linear fluorescents bulbs.

The State of Maine has detected high levels of mercury from mercury-thermostats and mercury-added lamps, primarily CFLs (NRCM, 2013). When disposing of mercury-thermostats or mercury-containing lamps in landfills, the mercury containers can break and leak causing severe damage to its surrounding environment. The bioaccumulation of the persistent toxic substance mercury affects human health and ecosystems surrounding the landfills, which means that the accumulation of substances occurs in organisms and is absorbed at a greater rate than it is lost. Humans are most often exposed to mercury exposure when eating fish, and at high levels, mercury can cause problems with the brain, lung, kidney, heart, and immune system. For several years now, Maine has been dealing with extremely high levels of mercury (Colby Environmental Policy Group, 2008). The state’s fish, loons, and eagles have the highest levels of mercury throughout North America (Maine DEP, 2013d). These high levels of mercury can also be attributed to the mercury emissions from nearby states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, the State of Maine has been working with the federal government on adopting stricter mercury regulations that prevent state-to-state accumulation (Colby Environmental Policy Group, 2008).

The product stewardship program for mercury-thermostats was created in 2005, setting homeowners recycling and collection goals to effectively eliminate all mercury from our waste stream (Maine DEP, 2014c). The 2006 ban geared the recycling efforts towards only the existing mercury-thermostats in order to eventually eliminate all of them (Rubin, Moris, McKee, & Butterfield, 2010). Maine is currently considered as a national leader in terms of mercury-thermostat recycling. The state not only enacted the first comprehensive and incentive-based collection program for mercury-thermostats in the US, but also reported the highest per capita collection rate in 2007 and 2008 (NRCM, 2013; Rubin et al., 2010). The 2005 program’s goal was to collect and recycle 160 pounds of homeowner thermostats per year within the first three years.The program also set a financial incentive of $5 for homeowners to recycle their thermostat (Maine DEP, 2014c). However, collection rates remained under 10%, until 2007 when the Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC), a non-profit, took complete control of managing the collection and recycling of mercury-thermostats. TRC manages the collection programs, whereas the actual thermostat manufacturers are responsible for providing financial incentives (Rubin et al., 2010). As shown in Figure 1.13, TRC’s involvement increased recycling rates, eventually reaching 46.9 pounds of mercury from Maine in 2012, the highest since 2009 (Maine DEP, 2014c). Although the state has increased recycling rates and pounds of mercury collected, it is evidently failing to meet the statutory goals set in 2005, and has only collected 26% of what is annually estimated to be available for recycling (Rubin et al., 2010). Fluctuation in numbers recycled and the inability to meet goals could be attributed to a variety of different factors. Such as TRC failing to meet some requirements of the management program. For example, the organization has restricted some sectors from disposing of mercury-thermostats, such as demolition contractors, housing authorities, handymen, solid waste personnel, and electricians. Additionally, TRC has not adequately informed the public on why, where, and how to recycle thermostats (Rubin et al., 2010).

Figure 1.13

Figure 1.13 The figure shows the total number of mercury-thermostats shipped for recycling or disposal in Maine (Maine DEP, 2013b).

Similarly, mercury-added lamps collection and recycling rates have also not met the management program’s expectations. In 2002, the State of Maine imposed a ban on knowingly disposing mercury-added products into residential solid waste streams (36 MRS §1663). Statistics from 2008 show that only 25% of CFLs discarded by Mainers were recycled and the rest were dumped into the residential solid waste stream (Rubin et al., 2010). Efficiency Maine, a NGO, responded by creating a free household CFL recycling program by partnering with 204 retail stores for throughout the state for collection. In only two and a half years, it collected 8,800 CFLs for recycling (Wagner, 2009). Through the regulations established in the Product Stewardship Framework law, a product stewardship program was created for mercury-added lamps in 2009. At this time, 67% Maine households were using at least one CFL (Wagner, 2009). Through the program’s details, National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA) assumed responsibility to provide funding containers for shipping and recycling services and manage recycling for the other forms of mercury-added lamps. Together, these two entities (Efficiency Maine and NEMA) manage the product stewardship program(Maine DEP, 2014c).

Even though the 2002 disposal ban was in place (Table 1.2), household-recycling rates in Maine still remained low partly because of the lack of public knowledge of CFLs and their proper disposal techniques. In 2009, an online survey was conducted to look at the awareness of Maine citizens and their use of CFLs. The survey shows that 76.8% of respondents knew CFLs contained mercury. Of the 76.8%, 23.5% recycled their CFLs, 28.9% disposed of them in their trash, 16.2% did not know what they did with their CFLs, and 7.6% kept them in storage. The survey also found that 63.2% of respondents did not know CFLs required recycling, and 9.7% claimed recycling was not necessary. More than two-thirds of the respondents did not know about CFL collection and Efficiency Maine’s free recycling program (Wagner, 2009). The inconsistency and lack of public knowledge proved through this study could also speak to fluctuation in mercury or lead containing lamps shipped for recycling and disposal as shown in Figure 1.14. These discrepancies raise the following question: if recycling is free and located throughout Maine, why are people still not even aware that it exists?


Figure 1.14 The figure shows the total number of mercury or lead-containing lamps shipped for recycling or disposal in Maine (Maine DEP, 2013b).

Prescription Drugs

In Maine, drug-related deaths outnumber deaths from motor vehicle accidents; in 2008, there were 168 drug-related deaths and 92% were from prescription drugs (Maine DEP, 2011).With increasingly more drugs on the market, there are more unused and unwanted drugs lying around, allowing for abuse, misuse, and improper disposal (Maine DEP, 2011). In 2010, the Maine DEP found traces of drugs in various leachate (otherwise known as surface or subsurface migration of landfill gas) samples from three separate household waste landfills (Lubick, 2010). Landfills in Augusta, Bath, and Brunswick were selected for leachate sampling because they receive large quantities of household waste. In all three landfills, the collected samples detected a presence of antidepressants, antibiotics, steroids, and heart, asthma, and pain medications (Lubick, 2010; Solid Waste Report, 2010). When prescription drugs are landfilled as MSW, traces end up in the liquid that leaches from landfills. This then creates the risk of contaminating groundwater and surface water supplies, which can have hazardous human health and environmental implications (Solid Waste Report, 2010). There continues to be an ongoing debate on whether landfills are an appropriate form of disposal for prescription drugs. Some argue that disposal is allowed in landfills if all prescription drugs are crushed into kitty litter (Lubick, 2010). Meanwhile, others realize the negative consequences and hope to see a take-back program develop in order to mitigate improper disposal.

On organized national take-back days, Maine has handed in tens of thousands pounds of drugs, more than any other state per capita. This high rate has deemed the state a leader in take-back efforts in the US, even though there is no daily or permanent take-back program. On September 25th, 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) arranged a one-day take-back event. In just a single day, the entire nation gave back 151 tons of unwanted prescription drugs. Over seven tons came from Maine communities, ranking the state as one of the highest per capita collection rates throughout the country (Maine DEP, 2011). There is a demand for collection of prescription drugs, which could help mitigate the growing concern of the apparent abuse and misuse of drugs available in households (Maine DEP, 2011). In 2007, Maine initiated a mail-back pilot program that provided a pre-paid envelope when filling a prescription to send unwanted or unused prescription drugs for proper disposal. This program was too expensive to maintain and did not pass the pilot stages, and became a permanent program only for veterans (Maine DEP, 2011).

There is no standard take-back program for prescription drugs in the US. However, for some drugs, there are take-back efforts regulated by The Controlled Substances Act (Table 1.1). The Act permits law enforcement officials to collect and handle specific, pre-determined drugs. Since law enforcement officials are collecting the drugs, many people often do not give back their unwanted drugs because of potential legal implications of illegal possession or use. When drugs are not given back through this Act or are not listed as a controlled substance, they continue to lie around the house and can put others at risk by abuse of available and easily accessible drugs. In order to protect the welfare and safety of households, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows homeowners to flush drugs toilet if they could harm children, pets, or anyone else when taken accidently (Lubick, 2010). Additionally, the chemical compounds in prescription drugs make their way into the state’s water systems when improperly disposed of in household solid waste streams or flushed down the toilet (Kunik, 2010). Drugs are biologically active and contain toxic chemical compounds, and when landfilled, the bioaccumulation affects non-target organisms such as fish and worms in the environment, even at a low-concentration. The pharmaceuticals enter the leachate, and go to wastewater treatment plants that are not designed to remove these drugs before they enter Maine’s surface water (Maine DEP, 2011).

Patricia Aho, Maine State Environmental Protection Commissioner, has reinterpreted the current disposal policies and deemed drugs as regular household waste, not hazardous (Woodard, 2013). Therefore, drugs are currently being “cleanly” burned in incinerators. However, the DEP believes that drugs are a hazardous household waste product and cites the incineration of drugs as an extremely hazardous activity (Maine DEP, 2011). Since there is no scientific data on the emission studies of pharmaceuticals (Woodard, 2013), incineration of prescription drugs will continue to occur and in turn release toxic substances into the air.

Maine tried to adopt a program through the Product Stewardship Framework Law for prescription drugs, but the proposed program was rejected for several reasons. First, reusing or recycling unwanted or unused prescription drugs is impossible because of the uncertainty of the drugs’ potency and safety after being in another person’s home. Reusing and recycling prescription drugs is not a cost-effective program or desired. Second, the categorization of drugs is difficult since some are defined as listed hazardous wastes and some as hazardous by characteristics based on the toxic substances and chemical compound differences in each drug. Third, some past collection events have been expensive. For example, MidCoast Hospital located in Brunswick, Maine spends $10,000 on each collection event for prescription drugs. Finally and most significantly, the product stewardship management strategy requires manufacturers to take responsibility, especially financially, to manage collection, which the pharmaceutical industry seemingly as no interest in (Maine DEP, 2011).

Analysis and Discussion

Drivers of Waste Management

In Maine, there are various factors related to the public, the private sector, and State regulations that influence waste management in different ways.

Public Perceptions and Behaviors

Landfills and incinerators have a long history of environmental pollution and negative public health impacts. The early Waste-To-Energy (WTE) facilities had very basic and little pollution controls. Even though most of these facilities had installed pollution control systems, they did not have the technology to mitigate public and environmental health threats such as mercury and dioxins. Despite the increased advances in pollution control technology and new national economic incentives, the WTE industry is still fighting negative public perception (Williams, 2011). Landfills are in a similar situation; despite increased standards from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), communities around Maine are reluctant to accept new landfills in their municipalities. This is increasingly relevant as Maine strongly considers and determines where to implement new solid waste disposal facilities based on the Determination of Public Benefit, which incorporate public perceptions. In order to implement new WTE technologies, which can include leachate capturing from landfills and combustion from incineration, positive public perception and behavior of these facilities is crucial.

In terms of recycling household hazardous waste (HHW), public perception and behavior (such as opinion on disposal fees and access to drop-off sites) drives the frequency of collection and recycling trends (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011). In order to recycle televisions, Maine municipalities charge up to $25 per item, based on the size of the television or a provided flat rate. A study conducted by Bouvier and Wagner (2011) shows that facilities that charge a fee for disposal of televisions and computer monitors receive fewer products per capita, which indicates that disposal costs have a negative effect the collection rates of specific products. Similarly, collection frequency affected the amount of HHW recovered; facilities open daily or three to five times a week collected far more than facilities open monthly, semi-annually, or annually. Bouvier and Wagner’s study collected data from 92 municipality transfer stations with computer monitors and television collection options for 30% of Maine’s population. The study reports that the facilities that were open daily collected 83 televisions and 51 computer monitors per 1,000 people, whereas the facilities open less frequently collected 54 televisions and 39 computer monitors per 1,000 people. Curbside collection of solid waste, recyclables, and HHW also enhances collection rates since residents do not need to travel in order to discard specific items, which indicates that the convenience of disposal options affects households’ participation in the safe disposal of electronic waste (e-waste). Maine’s e-waste recycling program depends on different municipalities’ choices regarding disposal fees, user eligibility, and facility frequency of operation (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011).

After the creation of the product stewardship program for mercury-added lamps in 2009, there was no significant increase in the number of mercury-added lamps collected. In an effort to enhance public perception in mercury-added light bulbs recycling, the program initiated a free recycling option. However, this did not lead to any improvements in the number of lamps recovered (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011). Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) survey showed that many Maine citizens were not aware that their CFLs contain mercury and that some respondents did not know that free recycling for their CFLs existed. However, some people were aware and recycled, some were aware and did not recycle, and some who were aware had kept their CFLs in storage. These findings indicate that there is a disconnect between the public’s knowledge of how, what, and where to recycle their products and program perceptions and expectations.

HHW makes significant contributions to the hazardous pollutants accumulating in landfills and incinerators. Leachate and incineration ash are byproducts of these solid waste facilities that already have significant public and environmental health implications. Allowing HHW to accrue in these facilities, exacerbates toxic leachate and air emissions by the burning or processing of these hazardous wastes.

Management without Specific Legislation

Many Maine residents, along with the rest of nation, are not aware of the harmful effects of improper disposal of prescription drugs (Lubick, 2010). The 2009 product stewardship program bill required manufacturers to prove to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that they were taking part in or running their own take-back prescription drug collection program. The Bill stated that unused pharmaceuticals met some of the criteria required to become a part of the product stewardship system and mandated pharmacies to provide consumers with prepaid envelopes to mail unused drugs back to manufacturers. The bill passed through the House of Representatives, but did not make it through the Senate (Lubick, 2010). The State of Maine has made several similar attempts to create programs that deal with unused or unwanted drugs in households. In 2005, a Bill entitled An Act to Support Collection and Proper Disposal of Unwanted Drugs was written to design a permanent take-back program entirely funded by the pharmaceutical industry. However, this Bill did not make it through the Senate (Maine DEP, 2011). In Maine, there is demand for safe disposal of unwanted drugs (Maine DEP, 2011), but a proper program that satisfies all stakeholders involved has not yet been established.

Municipal Policies Influencing Recycling Rates in Maine

Waste generated at the household-level constitutes a significant amount of municipal solid waste (MSW). Consequently, municipal policies that affect households’ participation in recycling are critical in enhancing recycling at the municipal level. In this report, we investigated the effect of five municipal policies on the recycling rates of 50 municipalities in Maine (Table 1.5). These policies are (1) Curbside recycling, (2) Zero-Sort recycling, (3) Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT), (4) Mandatory Recycling Ordinance (MRO), and (5) Municipal Composting Program (MCP).

Table 1.5 A summary of the number of towns with or without the policies, and the p-values for STATA t-test results comparing mean recycling rates for towns with and without the 5 policies

PolicyNumber of towns with policyNumber of towns without policy
Curbside Recycling3119
Zero-Sort Recycling2426
Mandatory Recycling Ordinance1436
Municipal composting program1040

Curbside recycling involves the pick-up of recyclables from either an easily accessible communal dumpster or curbside containers from individual households. Municipalities or a private companies engaged through municipal or individual household contracts collects the recyclables. This service may or may not require households to sort out their recyclables. Curbside recycling eliminates the time and transport costs associated with delivering recyclables at a drop-off point; therefore, it increases households’ participation in recycling (Tonjesa, 2013). Consequently, we hypothesized that municipalities with Curbside recycling would have higher recycling rates than municipalities where residents have to drop off their recyclables at a transfer station or recycling facility. About 60% of the municipalities in our sample had curbside recycling. The mean recycling rate for towns with Curbside recycling was statistically different and nearly double that of towns without Curbside recycling (Figure 1.15, Table 1.5), which indicates that Curbside recycling is effective at encouraging recycling among households.


Final Results

Figure 1.15 A summary of the STATA t-test with unequal variance results investigating the significance of the difference in the mean recycling rates of 50 towns with and without the policies.

We also investigated the impact of Zero-Sort recycling on recycling rates; 50% of the towns in our sample had Zero-Sort recycling. Zero-Sort requires households to put unsorted recyclables together in a bin separate from other trash, as compared to sorting out recyclables into their different categories (Criner & Blackmer, 2012). Thereafter, the unsorted recyclables are either picked up from curbsides or dropped off at a recycling facility by individuals. Zero-Sort is designed to minimize the amount of work needed to recycle. Therefore, we hypothesized that municipalities with Zero-Sort Recycling would have higher recycling rates than those without the policy. We found that the mean recycling rate for municipalities that have Zero-Sort recycling was significantly different and higher than that of municipalities without Zero-Sort (Figure 1.15, Table 1.5), which suggests that Zero-Sort is effective at enhancing households’ participation in recycling.

Another policy that influences recycling rates in Maine is the PAYT program. PAYT is a waste-unit-pricing program that charges residents for the collection of waste based on the amount that households throw out. As a result, disposal costs are directly borne by households. PAYT involves selling designated trash bags and thereafter, collection of only the designated trash bags from curbsides. The strengths of PAYT are that it creates a strong economic incentive to reduce waste and it also involves both Zero-Sort Recycling and curbside collection of both recyclables and general trash. Maine’s statewide recycling rate is driven by the amount of waste recycled and the amount of waste generated, both of which PAYT tackles. For these reasons, we hypothesized that municipalities with PAYT would have higher recycling rates than municipalities without the policy. We found that only 32% of the towns in our sample had PAYT and the mean recycling rate for towns with PAYT was statistically different and almost double that of towns without PAYT (Figure 1.15, Table 1.5). In our sample, the bag price varied from $1.00 to $2.08 for different bag sizes and there are challenges in addressing affordability issues amongst low-income households.

PAYT is becoming increasingly popular in Maine because WasteZero, a leading company in this sector, has taken the initiative to promote the program in the state (WasteZero, 2014). Once implemented, waste reduction attributed to PAYT is observed even in its early stages. For example, six weeks after the implementation of PAYT in Waterville, a 55% reduction in total MSW was observed (WasteZero, 2014). The City of Brewer adopted PAYT in 2010, and observed a 51% reduction in waste generated accompanied by a 382% increase in recycling tonnage from 2009 to 2012 (City of Brewer, 2013). This provides us with even more reason to encourage more Maine towns to adopt PAYT as it has been proven to effectively lower the waste generated and improve recycling tonnage.

In addition to service-related policies, some municipalities also have Mandatory Recycling Ordinances (MROs) that requires residents to recycle. Since ordinances have statutory teeth and residents tend to avoid non-compliance penalties, we hypothesized that municipalities with MROs would have higher recycling rates than municipalities without MROs. However, our results suggested that the mean recycling rate of cities with MROs was not statistically different from that of municipalities without recycling ordinances (Figure 1.15, Table 1.5). Only 32% of the towns in our sample had MROs. The lack of a difference suggests that MROs are ineffective at enhancing recycling activities at the household level. The ineffectiveness of MROs is possibly due to enforcement challenges, as there is lack of resources to investigate each household’s waste and confirm compliance. Some studies report very weak correlations between MROs and higher recycling rates (Miller, 2008), while some state that MROs do not seem to enhance recycling efforts (Sidiquea, Joshib, & Lupi, 2010).

We also analyzed the impact of Municipal Composting Facilities (MCPs) on recycling rates. Since the amount of composted waste is incorporated into recycling rates, we hypothesized that towns with MCPs would have higher recycling rates than towns without MCPs. Only 20% of the towns in our sample had a composting facility for the whole town (Figure 1.15, Table 1.5). All the towns with MCPS accept yard waste; however, none of the towns in the 20% accept food waste because the process of removing napkins and plastic cutlery from food waste is labor intensive, and it is problematic to deal with compost odor and bacteria associated with food waste (Levis et al., 2010; Scozzafava, 2003). Our analysis suggests that the mean recycling rate of municipalities with MCPs was significantly different and higher than that of towns without MCPs. Overall, this indicates that municipal composting programs enhance the amount of organic waste collected from household and boost municipal recycling rates.

In addition to the five municipal policies discussed above, we also looked into the impact of recycling education programs on recycling rates. We considered private company outreach, municipality outreach days, and school-based programs in collaboration with municipalities, as recycling education programs. Studies show that municipality outreach programs and school-based recycling education programs promote recycling and composting efforts at the household level (Cox et al., 2010). However, data about recycling education programs was not readily available from the 2013 Maine municipality reports. Towns like Cape Elizabeth and Cumberland have robust educational outreach conducted through school contests, brochure distribution from transfer facilities, and detailed web pages about recycling, but these recycling education programs are not listed under waste reduction efforts in the municipality reports (Miller, 2008). Based on town websites, many municipalities do not have recycling education programs, possibly due to limited funding. We noticed that a few towns that have high recycling rates also have recycling education outreach as other studies have also shown (Park & Berry, 2013). For example, ecomaine has education grants to fund school recycling programs and sponsor classroom-based recycling education and community outreach projects in Portland (ecomaine, 2014). In other states, like Florida, the Department of Education is mandated to establish K-12 curriculums for recycling awareness programs, which speaks to the influence of recycling education on waste reduction efforts (Park & Berry, 2013).

Challenges in Data Collection and Interpretation

In Maine, landfills are monitored by municipalities, which leads to varying intensity of data collection and management. Each active landfill in the state must submit an annual report stating its remaining, licensed, and constructed capacity, as well as yearly acceptance rate, any spill incidents, remaining life on the landfill, and the landfill development plan. However, not every landfill reported its capacity each year, and not every landfill provided an annual report for each year. Likewise, not all municipalities submitted annual waste management reports. We analyzed annual landfill reports for years 2010 to 2013 submitted to the DEP in order to map the landfill capacity across the state.

There is abundant data on incinerators in Maine. However, waste and energy companies generate this data and benefit from positive perceptions of their facilities. These reports often omit the environmental and public health data and implications, producing information on incinerators that does not tell the whole story. There are many merits to the consistent, informative, and comprehensive data provided by the companies on the economics and benefits of incinerators. The challenges in interpreting these data lie in balancing the extent of environmental and public health implications with Maine’s economic dependence on these facilities (Criner, 2013; Duchesne, 2013; Gabe, 2011; Williams, 2011).

Maine also has several product-specific programs to manage and mitigate household hazardous waste (HHW). As shown in Figures 1.11-1.14, the number of products shipped for recycling and disposal fluctuates from year to year. Regardless of new or updated policies or regulations, it is difficult to give reason for this fluctuation because of several household-specific factors that could vary the number or rates of HHW recycled or disposed of. These factors include: date of purchase, the product’s average life span, and extent of its usage in each household. The most important aspect of HHW recycling data interpretation is that homeowners do not necessarily recycle as soon as a product is unusable. Many people store their unusable HHWs and recycled them when it is most convenient creating no consistency in recycling rates. This sporadic recycling behavior for HHW makes it difficult for end-of-life management programs to track their progress and reach their fullest potential. Additionally, there is a lack of information on some products’ recycling history and Maine-specific data on products’ current state, yielding uncertainty and the inability to track program success and progress. Specifically, there is a lack of Maine recycling and disposal data outside of the product stewardship program, which can explain why there are inconsistencies and fluctuations in the amounts of HHW recovered.

Figures 1.12and 1.14 show the number of batteries and mercury or lead-containing lamps that are shipped for recycling and disposal. Even though we only focused on certain types of mercury-containing lamps in this report, these data provide insight to the overall trend of collection. Both figures show some fluctuation and points of significant decrease. In 2010, Figure 1.12 shows batteries recycling’s significant decrease, occurring almost 20 years after creating the battery product stewardship program. In Figure 1.14, an increase occurs just one year after mercury or lead-containing lamps numbers recycled decreased from 2005 to 2006. The total number of mercury or lead-containing lamps increased slightly until 2009, the same year the mercury-added lamps’ product stewardship program was created. With a new management strategy in place, the total number decreased in 2010 and fluctuated until 2012. It is difficult to explain the increase before the program was enacted, the decrease the year after, and then the fluctuation over time. There is much uncertainty regarding this fluctuation and the only probable reason is that the collection that year was merely coincidental and exists due to the variation of usage between households and HHW recycling behaviors such as recycling as soon as a product is unusable or when it’s most convenient.


The current state of the Maine’s municipal waste is characterized by ineffective policies, the lack of productive integration between key stakeholders lack of sufficient public knowledge, limited public participation in recycling, composting, and safe HHW disposal. In the near future, the state’s waste management systems must transform to achieve its waste reduction goals and a waste disposal system with minimal harm on the environment and human health. We propose three scenarios as examples of possible paths that Maine could take in the future.

Business as Usual

If current waste generation and disposal trends continue, we anticipate that Maine will run out of landfill space within the next decade. As landfills fill up, leachate leakage and methane gas generation, which will cause a deterioration of public and environmental health increases and exacerbates global warming. These outcomes translate to higher health care bills, a less productive population, and exhaustion of raw materials by the manufacturing industry. Additionally, exceeding the capacity of landfills leads to a steep rise in waste disposal costs for landfill expansion and creation. If the state’s current recycling rate remains stagnant, Maine loses out on the benefits of recycling including lower waste disposal costs and cheaper goods made from recycled material.

Abandon the Hierarchy

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has mandated that the waste hierarchy is no longer how Maine will prioritize waste management. Without the prioritization of reuse, reduce, and recycle, recycling and composting rates begin to plummet, as more MSW is disposed of in landfills and incinerators. Landfills are the cheapest and quickest method of disposal and therefore are now the default for Maine’s waste. With the increased demand for landfill disposal, the tipping fees for landfills increase. With this increase, incinerators become the best way to benefit the economy and reduce the impact on landfills.

There is no preference for source reduction and recycling. In effect, there is no funding or improvement of these systems, driving Maine further from its 50% recycling goal. Therefore household hazardous waste (HHW) collection rates are also no longer a priority under the recycling goals, allowing these toxic products to be incinerated and landfilled. The public health and environmental health implications of burning and improperly disposing of HHW are substantially larger without the prioritization of recycling. In abandoning the hierarchy, Maine suffers increased risk to public health, pollution, and costs associated with waste disposal.

The Ideal

When the solid waste hierarchy is followed, Maine reduces waste generation directly at the source, favoring reusing and recycling, and as a last option disposes of waste in landfills and incinerators. Through this effort, landfills do not exceed capacity, while both landfills and incinerators become the absolute last resort for MSW disposal. There is strong enforcement and incentive for all municipalities throughout Maine to achieve the 50% target goal for recycling within households. There is a feasible future for all proposed programs to effectively manage safe disposal of unused or unwanted drugs, as well as monitor pollution from landfills and incinerators. In terms of current product stewardship programs to manage HHW, we see an increase in the number of organizations voluntarily facilitating the management program. Their involvement better educates the public, informing them on what, where, how, and why to recycle. Not only do the programs expect the programs meeting the goals, but industry is also involved in fully financially providing incentives and handling costs for their products. The programs encompass more products, which begin to increase overall awareness. With strong programming, there is increased funding for maintaining the overall costs of the waste management system allowing equal access to a system that protects citizens and the environment. Additionally, as the hierarchy highlights, there is an increase in renewable waste management technology funding. Primarily, funding for research and pilot implementation for Waste-to-Energy technology that points to a more sustainable future as our population as a state continues to grow.


Although Maine has one of the best recycling rates in the US, is recognized as a leader in HHW take-back, and has demonstrated a commitment to waste conversion technologies, it still has potential to improve. Maine’s current base municipal recycling rate of 39.46% falls short of the state goal, and many compostable and recyclable wastes still constitute a large amount of landfilled waste (Figure 1.5). In addition, not all recycling programs created by municipalities are effective at increasing recycling rates. There is however, the potential to use product stewardship programs as a way to keep HHW from landfills and incinerators, but as of now the programs are not reaching their own intended goals and are not achieving the necessary improvements.

With the high costs of waste management creation, it is imperative that Maine adheres to the waste management hierarchy (Figure 1.2). Incineration, recycling and composting, and HHW take-back can work together, not having to remain at odds.  Landfills, incinerators, and improper disposal of HHW have public and environmental health effects. Capture methods and recycling efforts are necessary to mitigate hazardous pollutants ending up in Maine’s landfill and incinerators. Programs for HHW should be reworked to include all models of a product, volunteer organizations should develop relationships with manufacturers and disposal facilities, and any take-back program created should be geared to understand more about public perception. If Maine continues its precedent of strong recycling programs, leading HHW take-back, and demonstrating commitment to innovative waste conversion technologies, there is hope for the State of Maine to meet its waste reduction goals and become a national example of comprehensive responsible waste management.

Develop an Integrated Composting Framework

Based on the amount of organic waste that is still disposed in landfills, there is a need for improved composting in Maine. There is potential to build an integrated state-wide or numerous regional composting frameworks that can process larger volumes of yard and food waste. This framework would require robust cooperation between households, restaurants, municipalities, private companies, schools, colleges, and farmers. To achieve success in this framework, first, organic waste generated by households and restaurants could be dropped-off at or collected by farmers, municipalities, and private companies. For example, in Portland, Garbage to Garden provides compost bins to households and picks them up from curbsides each week at a fee of $14 a month (Garbage to Gardens, n.d.). Second, some schools and colleges generate large amounts of organic waste and have the potential to create independent composting facilities. Institutions that have demonstrated this ability include University of Maine which set up an automated composting unit called the EarthFlow 40, to compost dining hall waste and then use the compost for campus landscaping (UMaine, 2013). Third, Maine has a large farming community that can take part in the composting framework as both producers and consumers of compost. Last, farmers can collaborate with college departments and the Maine Compost School to improve compost quality and minimize odor. Municipalities, private compost companies, and farmers, should also invest in encouraging households to participate in gathering compostable waste.

Adoption of PAYT and Recycling Education Programs

We recommend that more municipalities adopt Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT), recycling education programs, and avoid pursuing Mandatory Recycling Ordinances. First, PAYT involves both Curbside recycling and Zero-Sort recycling, both of which enhance recycling rates in the state. PAYT transfers waste disposal costs to households and consequently saves money at the municipal level. However, there is a need for the State to consider subsidizing waste disposal costs to low-income households. Despite proven effectiveness in lowering waste and promoting recycling within the state, only 32% of the Maine municipalities in the sample studied had PAYT. Second, we believe there is a need for more recycling education programs throughout Maine municipalities, which will not only make residents aware of recycling options but also create opportunities for community engagement activities that directly enhance recycling. Finally since Mandatory Recycling Ordinances do not seem to enhance recycling rates, we do not believe that they are a worthy time and monetary investment for municipalities.

Future in Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Technologies

Maine should consider investing in waste to energy technologies over expanding landfill capacity. The state of Maine has a history of being a leader in waste management. In continuing that trend Maine should be one of the first states to use the technologies stated above, as outlined by the EPA and the DEP, as well as look to other countries, such as Sweden for examples (Williams, 2011).

WTE options exist outside of incineration and landfill gas to energy (LFGTE) projects. In the 2014 State of Maine report, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection identified three broad categories of waste conversion technologies it was seeking to research and implement: thermochemical (such as gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma arc technology), physiochemical (such as distillation of ethanol and the production of biodiesel), and biochemical (such as anaerobic digestion and ethanol fermentation and hydrolysis). They listed the definition of public benefit as including “lower GHG and other air emissions, renewable energy production, offset fossil fuels, and beneficial use of waste materials” (Maine DEP, 2014e).

Sweden is considered a WTE success story. Less than 2% of Sweden’s waste ends up in landfills, 48% is converted to energy, and the remaining 48% recycled or composted. The US in comparison landfills 54% of its waste, 12% is converted to energy, and 34% is recycled or composted (Williams, 2011). Due to favorable policies such as a carbon tax, high landfill fees, and recognition that WTE is a renewable resource, Sweden has managed to make WTE the lowest energy production cost of all known and proven technologies (Duchesne, 2013; Williams, 2011).

Programs to Improve Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection and Recycling Rates

Studies show that convenience is the biggest hindrance in recycling HHW (Massachusetts DPW, 2010; Wagner, 2009). In order to increase the frequency of recycling and overall rates of these products, recycling programs should have a greater focus on convenience for residents and targeted education of key demographics on the issue of recycling.

Several places around the US have collection systems for HHW in addition to the permanent facilities as a way to increase collection rates (Massachusetts DPW, 2010). The following three recommendations and examples of successful programs suggest ways in which Maine could increase the total number of HHW collected to facilitate the process for proper disposal and recycling. First, retailers such as home improvement stores, warehouses, supermarkets, and mass merchandise stores should accept HHW products for recycling or disposal throughout the year (Wagner, 2009). Expanding drop-off sites to retail stores that homeowners frequent could increase recycling rates and eliminate issues of inconvenience. Second, municipalities should use mobile collection units could be used to travel within designated municipalities of transfer stations, as a way to encourage more convenient collection of HHW. Kansas City, Kansas has 10-12 mobile collections of HHW a year in addition to their permanent facility. Third, municipalities could adopt curbside collection of HHW throughout Maine, which would be the most convenient solution for residents. Denver, Colorado has had this option in place for about a decade. Residents must inform the collection company in advance that they would like to have HHW picked up at their residence. Each household is given a large plastic bag and a seal that cannot be opened again, and they can fill up the bag with up to 125 pounds of waste. Each household can use this option once a year. The City pays the contractor to pick up and take the HHW for proper recycling or disposal (Massachusetts DPW, 2010). These three strategies – retail drop-off sites, mobile collection, and curbside collection – could exponentially increase the number of HHW products collected for proper disposal and recycling (Massachusetts DPW, 2010; Wagner, 2009).

In addition to the recommendation for increasing HHW collection, pharmaceutical drugs need a monitoring system that lessens the impacts of these products on environmental and public health, while incorporating all stakeholders. Currently, the federal government does not require testing for pharmaceutical chemical compounds in water and has no safety limits for concentrations acceptable in water (Kunik, 2009). This type of research is extremely pivotal in developing management strategies that could help to mitigate the consequences of improper disposal of prescription drugs. Effective product stewardship management for with pharmaceuticals can be created only if its industry is willing to participate in mitigating unwanted or unused drugs available in households. France, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden all have this program. These countries have all enacted a national take-back program allowing consumers to return unwanted or unused prescription drugs to local pharmacies. Funding in each country, except Sweden, includes or is exclusively provided by the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Various provinces in Canada also have a comprehensive product stewardship program that includes the pharmaceutical companies (Maine DEP, 2011). However, the lack of industry support suggests difficulty in creating a pharmaceutical disposal control and programming. A voluntary program could help some type of management program for pharmaceuticals.

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Appendix 1A

A summary of five municipal policies and recycling rates for 50 municipalities sampled in our study (Maine DEP, 2014)

MunicipalityRecycling RateCurbside CollectionSingle StreamPAYTMMROMunicipal Composting
Brooks 15.70NoNoNoNoNo
Cape Elizabeth15.70NoNoNoYesNo
Bar Habor17.95YesNoNoNoNo
Old Town39.00YesYesYesYesYes

Appendix 1B


Hazardous Waste: Hazardous wastes are broken up into two categories to define type of hazardous waste for regulatory purposes, hazardous by characteristics and listed hazardous waste. Waste that is hazardous by characteristic is determined by having at least one of the following characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity. Whereas, listed hazardous waste includes four different categories: (1) non-specific sources, (2) specific sources, (3) commercial chemical products, intermediates or off-specification products – either listed as acute or non-acute waste, and (4) polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) (Maine DEP, 2013f).

Universal Waste: A universal waste is a type of hazardous waste that is created by anyone, such as batteries, certain lamps and fluorescent bulbs, mercury devices, mercury thermostats, and PCB ballast (Maine DEP, 2013g)

Electronic Waste:Electronic wastes (e-waste) are defined as old or unusable computers and monitors, televisions, central processing units, cell phones, printers, stereos, DVD and video equipment, fax machines, and copiers (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011)

Dry-cell Batteries: Dry-cell batteries, an umbrella term that include alkaline and zinc-carbon (everyday household batteries such as 9-volt, AA, AAA, D, and C), mercuric-oxide (button, cylindrical, and rectangular), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, and rechargeable). These types of batteries contain heavy metals that react with a chemical electrolyte in order to product a battery’s power.

Mercury-added Lamps: Mercury-added lamps include linear fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights, black lights, high-intensity discharge, ultraviolet, and neon lights (MRS Title 38§1672).

Beneficial use of waste: The use of waste paper, waste plastics, waste wood, including wood from demolition debris, used motor vehicle tires or corrugated cardboard as a fuel in industrial boilers or waste-to-energy facilities for the generation of heat, steam or electricity constitutes recycling only for the purposes of meeting the state goals for municipalities. In order for the use of waste under this subsection to constitute recycling, the department must determine that there is no reasonably available market in the State for recycling that waste and the wastes must be incinerated as a substitute for, or supplement to, fossil or biomass fuels incinerated in the industrial boiler or waste-to-energy facility (38 MRS §2132 (3)).

Municipal solid waste: MSW includes everyday materials from households, schools, hospitals, and businesses (EPA, 2012b).

Recycle: “Recycle” means to recover, separate, collect and reprocess waste materials for sale or reuse other than use as a fuel for the generation of heat, steam or electricity (38 MRS §1302-C (21)).

Recycling: “Recycling” means the collection, separation, recovery and sale or reuse of materials that would otherwise be disposed of or processed as waste or the mechanized separation of waste, other than through combustion, and the creation and recovery of reusable materials other than as a fuel for the generation of electricity (38 MRS §1302-C (22)).

Solid waste: “Solid waste” means useless, unwanted or discarded solid material with insufficient liquid content to be free-flowing, including, but not limited to, rubbish, garbage, refuse-derived fuel, scrap materials, junk, refuse, inert fill material and landscape refuse, but does not include hazardous waste, biomedical waste, septage or agricultural wastes (38 MRS §1302-C).

Energy Recovery from Waste: “Energy recovery from waste” is the conversion of non-recyclable waste materials into useable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes, including combustion, gasification, pyrolization, anaerobic digestion, and landfill gas (LFG) recovery. This process is often called waste-to-energy (WTE) (EPA, 2014 (EPA, 2014a)).

Appendix 1C

Summary of product stewardship programs

ProductYearProgram DetailsResultsChallenges and Issues
Dry-cell Batteries1991Rechargeable batteries program managed by Call2Recycle; Registering and facilitating collection sites (Call2Recycle, 2013)Increased total weight by 33% from 2008 to 2012, which is due to more public awareness and participation (Maine DEP, 2014c)Lack of Maine-specific battery data, resulting in the lack of indication of the success of the program (Rubin et al., 2010)
Electronic Devices2006Goodwill and Dell accepting computer-related electronics through their ReConnect program at all Goodwill locations in Maine (Maine DEP, 2014c)Collected 6.406 million kilograms the first three years (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011); Collected 37 million pounds and an estimated 4 million pounds of lead; Increased number of locations and events for recycling; Decreased drop-off fees; Increase in jobs for collection, consolidation, hauling, and recycling; Reduced costs for local government and taxpayers by $11 million (NRCM, 2014b).Lack of standardization of municipalities collection of e-waste (in terms of disposal fees, user eligibility, and facility frequency); Households with solid waste curbside collection are less likely to bring e-waste to the transfer station to be recycled (Bouvier & Wagner, 2011)
Mercury-Thermostats2009Sale or distribution of the device was prohibited; Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC) facilitates the program and disposal sites; Manufacturers are responsible for all existing devices and funds the $5 incentive (NRCM, 2013).Highest per capita collection rate for states in the country, ten times higher than the national average (NRCM, 2013)TRC have programming, leading to the lessening of incentive for manufacturers to fund financial incentives which increase collection rates (Rubin et al., 2010); Not met the weight collection per year goal set by the State and TRC (Maine DEP, 2014c); Only collected 26% of the number of available thermostats per year (Rubin et al., 2010)
Mercury-added lamps2009NEMA manages the whole program for every type of mercury-added lamp, whereas Efficiency Maine helps facilitate for only compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) (Maine DEP, 2014c)Achieved a 29% recycling rate (Maine DEP, 2014c).CFL users do not recycle as much because many CFL users believe that disposal sites or transfer stations accepting CFLs are inconveniently located (NRCM, 2013; Wagner, 2009)