Susan Parmelee (left) and Michelle Radley (right), interns for ecomaine, who worked on recycling inspections and education initiatives for RedBank Village. On Nov. 20, ecomaine and the city of South Portland celebrated Redbank Village’s recycling contamination decrease from 90 percent to 25 percent. Catherine Bart photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — In celebration of a 90 percent to 25 percent decrease in recycling contamination at Redbank Village, interns from ecomaine thanked residents on Nov. 20, offering education and giveaways.

The interns, Susan Parmelee and Michelle Radley, set out each week between Aug. 17 and Oct. 30 in a recycling inspection project that observed and tagged recycling contamination in residents’ bins, Matt Grondin, communications manager for waste-to-energy nonprofit ecomaine, said.

According to ecomaine, “Throughout the summer and fall, residents’ recycling carts were inspected and given a tag – green for a job well done; yellow for a handful of items that do not belong in the recycling stream; and red for carts that contained too much trash to process as recycling. Carts with red tags would be left behind by Casella, the collector for South Portland’s recycling and trash.”

Radley and Parmelee said that they inspected a little more than 500 bins, finding that plastic bags, or recycling materials rolled up inside plastic bags, were the most common contaminants in the recycling bins.

Redbank Village in South Portland saw a 65 percent decrease in curbside recycling contamination from August to October, during ecomaine’s recycling outreach program. Interns inspected and tagged recycling bins with red, yellow and green tags, which represented how contaminated a bin was, with red being the most contaminated, and provided education to residents on what can go into bins. The tagging began Aug. 14, but July data was used as a baseline, said Matt Grondin, communications director for ecomaine. Courtesy photo Matt Grondin

A new Maine resident, Parmelee said that the program helped teach her what can and cannot go into the curbside recycling bins.

Radley enjoyed the opportunity to provide outreach and education, she said, adding that many residents just don’t know what should not go into the recycling bins.

“There really is a want for it in the community,” Radley said.

Ecomaine provides information on its website about what is recyclable, and the interns were giving handouts during their celebration on Nov. 20.

Grondin said that ecomaine is glad to see such cooperation.

“We’re very grateful for the enthusiasm we saw from Redbank Village’s residents,” he said. “We know that people want to recycle right, and we’re pleased to provide the tools for them to do just that.”

The interns said that seeing the improvements was gratifying and reinforced why they were out there each week.

The data showed progress, Kathryn Oak, ecomaine’s Recycling Manager, said.

“Seeing the levels of contamination decrease each week was very exciting – it was progress, right in front of our eyes, and proof that this kind of educational program really does work,” Oak said.

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