KNOX – Paper, plastic, tin and compost all have their place in Joan Sheldon’s home. Newspapers go in a box by the front door, while white office paper is separated from cereal boxes, junk mail and other paper that go into different boxes.

In the kitchen there are containers for trash that does not include food and a separate one for compost. In the garage, Sheldon uses old birdseed bags to sort recyclable plastics and metals.

It’s all part of a system that allows her to generate only three bags of garbage per year, she said.

“It’s easy. When I have something, I drop it by the door or wherever is convenient. It’s about 30 seconds out of my day,” said Sheldon.

Through recycling and generating little trash, Sheldon is living the message of the Unity Area Recycling Center, where she also serves as the Knox representative on the board of directors and on the education committee.

The goal is to save the environment and some money for the towns that use the recycling center along the way, she said.

The center is used by nine towns: Brooks, Dixmont, Freedom, Knox, Jackson, Montville, Thorndike, Troy and Unity.

Aaron Paul, facility manager for the center, said there is always a need to remind people to recycle and Sheldon’s example is one people could learn from.

“We have to throw it in people’s faces constantly, remind them we are here and let them know what materials we are taking,” he said.

In January, Sheldon designed a brochure for the center with recycling tips and a list of materials accepted.

There are also new materials people tend not to realize are accepted at the center, Paul said. Those include rigid plastics such as buckets, lawn furniture and children’s toys; plastic bags and wrap such as grocery bags, wood pellet bags and bubble wrap; and freon appliances such as refrigerators and freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers.

The Thorndike-based recycling center provides an incentive to recycle, Shelbie said: Materials are compressed and sold to manufacturers. The center compresses recyclables into bales weighing between 600 and 1,400 pounds on site and sells them to mills or manufacturers, according to the education committee brochure. In return, the center generates revenue that is credited to the towns and helps them pay for the cost of having the center.

“Our recyclables are sold as commodities. Cardboard, loose paper and other recyclables are worth money,” she said.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

rohm@mainetoday.com