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COVID-19 affects recycled products

By Christine Simmonds | May 12, 2020
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Thomaston co-operative transfer station saw a reduction in their recycled tonnage in April.

Knox County — A decrease in recycling has led to a shortage of important products, like toilet paper and cardboard boxes.

Matt Grondin of EcoMaine, based out of Portland, said many manufacturers use recycled stock to create their products, and there is simply not as much recycling coming in now.

About 40% of the raw materials these manufacturers use comes directly from recycling. Less recycling means a shortage of these manufactured goods.

Grondin also said there has been a shortage of cardboard boxes as well. People are ordering more items through the internet to be shipped in these boxes.

“The toilet paper shortage is obvious right now,” said Grondin, but some of that is because of people buying toilet paper in excess, and some is due to a lack of materials to make the tissue.

This lack of recycling is directly tied to the coronavirus pandemic, Grondin said. Some transfer stations have halted recycling due to concerns about the virus. Also, many offices are closed that would be collecting recycled goods like paper. “It’s all interconnected,” Grondin said.

Because of this shortage of recycling, Grondin said manufacturers are turning to residential recycling.

Grondin said EcoMaine heard from companies asking for more materials, and they are doing their best to comply.

EcoMaine sorts and processes recycling to prepare it for the marketplace. They send it to the manufacturers, who then turn it into new materials.

Pete Lammert is retired from the board of the Solid Waste Co-operative in Thomaston, but is still in contact with them. He said the report from EcoMaine for April showed a decrease in recycling tonnage.

Whereas previous months had recycling at 4.25 tons, Lammert said recycling in April was at 3.78 tons.

Lammert said the public can help by ensuring they are not trying to recycle goods that are not in the program, and by cleaning food waste more thoroughly from containers.

“Most of that waste is water soluble,” Lammert said, so if people soak it overnight with their pots and pans that will help clean it.

Lammert said the percentage of non-recyclable or dirty materials in the collection also matters. If it goes over a certain number, the whole batch is disposed of.

Grondin also said the public can help. “Keep recycling,” he said. He encouraged people to learn more about their recycling program and continue to participate.

“The more recycling we get, the more we can send on,” he said.

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