Ecomaine and Recycling

The tipping floor: where recyclable stuff is loaded onto the conveyors for separation

Running stuff on the conveyor

I’m recently back from a trip to Maine where I visited friends. One of the highlights of my trip was a tour of Ecomaine’s recycling facility.  It’s all about our stuff. You might remember George Carlin’s skit about stuff.

Trash stuff is offloaded in another building where the claw grabs it to feed to the burners. There it is reduced to ash. Contaminates are scrubbed and captured as fly ash. Both go to landfills where they cannot leach into the surrounding soil.
After sorting, each type of stuff is bailed and shipped to producers.

Recycling facilities offer a critical service. Unfortunately, we consume so much stuff that recycling is not enough. Right now there is tremendous pressure on the picturesque Finger Lakes in New York State (home of many wineries) to receive evermore stuff into their landfills. People are up in arms. But who can blame them? I don’t want a landfill in my backyard either. Who is to blame? Well, uh, it’s you, me, and all of us. The fact of the matter is we all buy too much stuff. And the manufacturers and the retailers, they just add to it by blister packing it in cardboard and plastic so it’s more difficult to shoplift and looks great on the shelves or on hooks. Having all this stuff is also causing global temperatures to rise, due to the energy required to produce it.

So, the solution is, buy less and package less. If we don’t do it, then the planet will do it for us. I’m not making a pitch to save the planet—it will go on without us. I’m making the pitch to save ourselves. But at the very least, keep recycling.

My thanks to our tour guide, Katrina, who knew the answers to all of our many questions.

 

All That Stuff

Steel drum
Chassis

George Carlin, the late comedian, once satirized Americans for having too many possessions–stuff. Well it’s true. And some of that stuff we dump. I remember as a kid growing up in farm country we had our own dump. That’s right. Less than a quarter of a mile away there was a large pit where we took our trash and garbage via a wooden wagon to sling it in–this well ahead of the days of mandated disposal and town operated transfer stations. You still see evidence today throughout rural areas that house the resting areas of old farm equipment, cars, trucks, and other stuff.

I found some examples from a hike through a Monroe County park last summer where I found a steel drum (I dread to think what it might have contained) and a vehicle chassis. Today, disposal is strictly regulated with some stuff being shipped to poor countries to be recycled,

Perfectly fine radiators, if stripped

the rest sent to our ever-growing landfills. Some radiators I found near a cottage renovation project this past fall on Peaks Island will hopefully be reused or recycled into other products in the U.S. under safe working conditions (unless Trump rescinded these too by executive order). A bit of thought suggests that is not ethical to expose people in poor countries to the dangerous process of recovering recyclable materials , and the room required for more landfills limited.