Thorvald Arnell, left, and Julie Gourlay, interns for ecomaine, inspect recycling bins for contamination in 2019. ecomaine photo

SCARBOROUGH — Interns from ecomaine will inspect residents’ recycling bins this April and May, checking for contamination as well as providing educational tips.

This is the third time Scarborough has partnered with ecomaine in the nonprofit organization’s recycling outreach program, the town announced.

The interns will tour recycling and trash collection routes where data indicates higher levels of contamination in order to provide educational feedback and information about recycling, ecomaine said in a release.

“During interns’ inspections, they will issue green tags for good recyclables within, yellow tags for loads that have a handful of items that are not recyclable, and red tags for loads with too much contamination or trash,” the release said. “The bins with red tags are considered overly contaminated and increase costs for the municipality. Therefore, they will not be picked up by the collection company. The tags will identify item(s) that do not belong in the recycling cart.”

Contaminated recycling loads are processed as trash, said the town of Scarborough. These loads cost taxpayers $73 per ton.

“In recent months, the number of contaminated recycling loads from Scarborough has started to creep back up,” the town said. “Since July 2020, the town has had 49 loads of recycling rejected by ecomaine. We hope the additional outreach will help reduce our contaminated loads and reduce fees paid by the town and taxpayers.”

The town has seen some improvements during the program’s previous runs, said Mike Shaw, Scarborough Public Works director.

“We have seen some really significant results in behavior change due to this program,” he said. “It makes for an environment that’s easier for our residents to recycle right and keep recyclable materials out of landfills.”

In 2020, the program’s success was cause for a celebration in the Red Bank Village in South Portland, ecomaine announced in November of last year. Contamination rates in the neighborhood reduced from 90 percent to 25 percent.

To see a list of what should go into recycling bins, visit ecomaine.org/what-can-be-recycled.

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