Cyndi Nielsen unloads cardboard at the Greene Transfer Station. She is an avid recycler and often brings her grandchildren to help. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

GREENE — On a recent April day, Fay Pouzol was at the Greene Transfer Station dropping off newspapers to be recycled.

“Everybody should be made to recycle,” she said. “I wish we could recycle more in the town of Greene. Recycling is very important.”

Greene’s recycling rate is 28% — not bad considering the economics involved and other recycling rates across Maine. Lewiston and Auburn, for example, each recycle about 8% of household trash.

In Greene, recycled materials are clean and good for the market, said George Lavertu, the town’s transfer station supervisor.

He makes sure. He watches.

Every milk jug, can, bottle and newspaper bundle that people bring in is overseen by Lavertu or his staff.

“We inspect everything that goes into the containers,” he said. “It eliminates the contamination. We physically handle the products that go in.”

He pointed to a peanut butter jar that was rejected. It contained globs of peanut butter.

Milk jugs are thrown into the No. 2 plastic container at the Greene Transfer Station. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

We don’t accept something not cleaned out. That contaminates the rest of recycling,” he said.

In Greene, there’s no curbside collection. No single sorting. Recycling is mandatory. People can be fined if they’re caught tossing recyclables with trash.

Once residents have stickers on their vehicles, they bring their trash and recycling to the transfer station. Trash goes in one big bin that’s incinerated at Auburn’s Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp. Recyclables go in an assortment of tractor-trailer-sized containers and hauled to the Casella recycling facility in Lewiston.

Each huge bin bears signs listing strict rules.

“Newspapers, magazines only. Clean and dry.”

“Tin cans only. Remove paper and flatten.”

“Cardboard: No larger than 3 x 3. Taken apart and laid flat.”

The sign for laundry and milk jugs reads: “Number 2 Plastic only. No covers and flatten.” Milk jug caps must be removed because they’re a different kind of plastic — No. 4 rather than No. 2 — and could contaminate the load.

Because Greene’s recyclables are good for the market, the town saves money. Last year, Greene saved about $15,600 by recycling, according to Town Manager Charlie Noonan’s report.

Lavertu said he’s not a fan of zero sorting, in which all recyclables are thrown into one bin, because it increases the odds of contamination.

When a Greene resident trashes something that’s recyclable, they get a warning. If they don’t improve, they could be fined $150 for each trash bag that contains recyclables.

The refusal-to-recycle fine is rare.

“It’s happened in the past, prior to me coming here,” Lavertu said. “I’ve been here five years now. People are really compliant. It works out well for the most part.”

Education is key, he said, including letting people know that it costs about $2,000 a week to get rid of household trash.

“It’s important to make people aware that we’re trying to save the environment, and it also reflects on their property taxes,” Lavertu said.

Greene resident Marcel Chasse likes the town’s recycling program. Transfer station workers are helpful, he said.

“We cooperate. We know what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

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Greene Transfer Station Superintendent George Lavertu approaches avid recycler Cyndi Nielsen at the station. Lavertu keeps an eye out for box tops and gives them to Nielsen, who collects them for her grandchildren’s school. Nielsen often brings her grandchildren to help unload recyclables. “My grandson loves to come here,” she said. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

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