In 1989, I started working for the town of Phippsburg as the landfill manager, working with Harry and Curtis Doughty, who, in addition to plowing the roads, used their heavy equipment to cover the landfill. Bath Vocational Building program students built Phippsburg a 30-foot-long, wooden building which contained an office space and a larger space for storage. I started collecting cardboard from residents and recruited residents for a Solid Waste Committee to work with and advise the three Phippsburg selectpersons on a longer-term solution to trash disposal. Phippsburg had the opportunity to join the public regional waste incinerator in Portland, so we built a roll off transfer station, capped our landfill and expanded our recycling program to fill a truck trailer with cardboard, and added paper, glass and can collection.

In the 1990s, when recycling was growing and overseas markets still paid for recyclables, recycling earned money for towns. Today, with China refusing to buy foreign recyclables and saturated American markets for glass, metal and paper, only cardboard and a few types of plastic earn money. The markets fluctuate monthly on how much they will pay for clean recyclables, but the cost of operating sorting lines and low prices for most recyclables means towns must often pay as much to get recyclables processed as they do for solid waste disposal.

At that time, Brunswick and smaller area town landfills — and, to a lesser degree, Bath’s landfill — had limited life expectancy, so representatives from West Bath, Woolwich, Georgetown and Arrowsic, including myself for Phippsburg, met monthly to consider regional recycling and incineration as possible solutions to replace landfills.

We toured the Wilmington, North Carolina, incinerator and learned some of the hazards and the need for high-temperature incineration to most effectively reduce air pollutants from their incinerator. With two public and two private incinerators operating in Maine at the time, our regional waste committee decided against building our own incinerator. Bath invested instead in a Recycling Building on Route 1 in West Bath that is now operated as a single-stream recycling center by Casella Waste Systems. Bath’s extensive recycling door-to-door pickup by Pine Tree Waste is processed there.

Bath’s Public Work’s Director Lee Leiner maintains a comprehensive online list of the products Bath residents are encouraged to put in bins for this weekly single-stream recycling pickup. The Bath landfill also accepts a huge list of items homeowners might generate, including hazardous PCB ballasts, fluorescent light bulbs, antifreeze, computers, cell phones and car batteries. Bath residents can study the list at, then under Services, choose Trash and Recycling. Public behavior in cleaning our recyclables and putting in only what is on the town website lists is essential. Dirty recyclables or loads contaminated with film, plastic bags, lids, mixed material content or other items not on the list make more work for the sorting line and risk rejection of the town’s delivery. To keep prices as low as possible, careful following of each town’s list of acceptable recyclables is essential.

Let’s think differently about food wastes instead of putting them in the trash. Organic materials like leaves, grass, vegetable peelings, old leftovers the dog won’t eat are actually resources. Organic farmers and gardeners know that the more organic material you can get back into your garden soil, the better your vegetable and flowers will grow. When I tested the soil in the field where cows had rested at my newly purchased Monmouth farm prior to planting, I was delighted to find organic matter of 5%-8%. This high organic level meant lots of microorganisms were breaking down the cow manure and plant matter into nutrients on which my garden vegetables would thrive. I didn’t need to buy or add fertilizer to that field, and you won’t need added fertilizer in your lawn or gardens if you apply finished compost annually.


Buy a closed garbage container and use it as a compost bucket near your kitchen sink by scraping plates and leftovers into it. Bath residents can take the full bucket to the Garbage to Garden drop-off kiosks at the Bath landfill and Lemont and High Street community garden. Even simpler, for $4.75 a week, Garbage to Garden will give Bath and Brunswick residents a bucket and pick it up weekly, returning you a bag of organically certified compost when you request one.

Information on how to build and manage your own compost pile will be available at the Topsham Transfer Station, the Bath Public Works website and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection website. A future Recycle Bin article will describe how I’m attempting to improve my home composting with more added crumpled paper.

You will be saving money for yourself, the town and taxpayers by increasing recycling and adding composting. You will buy fewer trash bags and help extend the life of Bath’s carefully managed landfill resource. Organic waste buried in landfills without oxygen produces methane as it breaks down, which is a potent greenhouse gas. So, our combined efforts to avoid burying organic matter will recover soil, enhancing resources, and will also reduce methane warming of Earth’s climate. Be a good Earth steward and make a New Year’s resolution to start collecting compost and increase your recycling!

Nancy Chandler studied Animal Behavior and Anthropology at Stanford University, then received her master’s in biology education in her home state of North Carolina at U.N.C. Chapel Hill. She is passionate about teaching energy conservation and hopes to get you thinking about how to use energy use efficiently to save both money and reduce greenhouse warming gases.

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