Waste Management

Municipal solid waste is waste typically generated by households, businesses, and schools and may be managed by municipalities, which means that your tax dollars are paying for their disposal. The more you recycle, the less it costs your town in disposal fees.

As a resident of northern Maine, there are many different things that we can recycle. For example, corrugated cardboard, newspapers, office paper, mixed paper, food wastes, plastics, glass metals, and textiles can be recycled at most transfer stations and landfills. Also, we can recycle tires, appliances, furniture, wood wastes, yard waste, and construction/demolition debris.

Maine’s recycling rate is among the highest in the nation, and the state has become a national model for both environmental sensitivity and economic sensibility.

Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) has services available to help homeowners, businesses, and schools reduce, reuse, and recycle solid waste and help our communities save money. 

NMDC has an environmental planner on staff with a goal of supporting northern Maine communities in dealing with solid waste issues. Our goal is to initiate community-driven, regional-based projects in northern Maine. We hope to connect ideas, partners, and findings to create measurable and lasting results on a regional level.

Local Programs

NMDC’s service area encompasses Aroostook, northern Washington, northern Piscataquis, and northern Penobscot Counties. The waste handling within these areas varies by location, services provided, end disposal, etc. A number of the municipalities have joined forces in providing waste services and have created regional Solid Waste Management Associations (SWMAs).

Following is a list of the SWMAs and their member municipalities. Also included are those towns within NMDC’s service area that are currently independent of a SWMA.

Solid Waste Management Associations:

  • Aroostook Valley Solid Waste Disposal District: Ashland, Garfield, Masardis, Oxbow
  • NARIF – Northern Aroostook Regional Incineration Facility: Fort Kent, Frenchville, Madawaska, St Agatha
  • NASWA – Northern Aroostook Solid Waste Association: Eagle Lake, New Canada, Wallagrass, Winterville
  • Northern Katahdin Valley Waste Disposal District: Amity, Crystal, Dudley, Dyer Brook, Hammond, Hersey, Island Falls, Merrill, Moro Plt., Mt Chase, New Limerick, Patten, Smyrna, Webbertown
  • Presque Isle Region: Castle Hill, Chapman, Mapleton, Perham, Presque Isle, Wade, Washburn
  • Sherman Region: Benedicta, Sherman, Silver Ridge, Stacyville
  • Southern Aroostook Region: Bridgewater, Cary Plantation, Cox Patent, Hodgon, Houlton, Linneus, Ludlow, Monticello, Oakfield
  • TCL – Tri-Community Recycling and Sanitary Landfill: Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Limestone, Allagash, Blaine, Caswell, Connor, Cyr Plt., Easton, Grand Isle, Guerette, Hamlin, Nashville Plt., New Sweden, Portage, Sinclair, Stockholm, Westfield, Westmanland, Woodland
  • Upper St John Valley: St Francis, St John

Individual Services:

  • Bancroft
  • Danforth
  • Grand Isle
  • Haynesville
  • Littleton
  • Macwahoc Plantation
  • Mars Hill
  • Monticello
  • Oakfield
  • Orient
  • Portage Lake
  • Van Buren
  • Weston
Household Hazardous Waste

What is household hazardous waste?

How do I know if I have household hazardous waste in my home? Surprise! We all generate household hazardous waste. The average American generates about 15 pounds of household hazardous waste a year. Most household hazardous waste ends up at the landfill, in septic systems, or at sewage treatment plants if you pour it down your drains. Sometimes, people pour the waste directly onto the ground or into storm drains, which empty into local rivers and streams. Eventually, these wastes make it back into our drinking water supply.

Until recently, we did not pay much attention to household hazardous waste. Few realized the dangerous makeup of the products we use, or we thought the amount was so small it would not matter.

The problem with household hazardous waste is that it is exempt from federal and state hazardous waste regulations. Most of it gets placed in your household garbage right along with other non-hazardous types of waste that your trash hauler picks up weekly.

Many common household products have hazardous properties. Take a look at your cleaning supplies or look around the basement or garage. Storage of these wastes poses safety and health hazards for homeowners. Products that exist in high concentration, such as aerosols and polishes, are very volatile.

How do I dispose of my household hazardous waste?

Residents who are spring cleaning may find hazardous products—such as old turpentine, paint thinners, pesticides, waste gasoline, and pharmaceuticals—in their homes, garages, or barns. NMDC organizes annual household hazardous waste collections in the summer. Stay tuned for more information as to when these events are held.

Items accepted in the household hazardous waste collection:

  • Turpentine/Varnish
  • Brake Fluid
  • Paint Remover/Thinners
  • Charcoal Lighter Fluids
  • Pool and Photo Chemicals
  • Linseed Oil
  • Used Antifreeze
  • Adhesives/Solvents
  • Oven/Drain Cleaners
  • Fungicide/Herbicide/Pesticides
  • Battery Acid/Muriatic Acid
  • Waste Gasoline

Wastes NOT accepted at household hazardous waste collections:

  • Ammunition: Call your local police department.
  • Asbestos, Commercial, and Industrial Waste: Call Maine Department of Environmental Protection in Presque Isle, Lou Pizzuti at 1-888-769-1053 OR (207) 764-0477.
  • Car, Lawn Mower, and Boat Batteries: Return to the place where they were purchased or to your local transfer station for recycling.
  • Fireworks and Explosives: Call Maine State Police at Houlton Barracks, (207) 532-5400.
  • Flashlight Batteries: AA, AM, C&D types—also known as alkaline batteries. Since 1993, alkaline batteries no longer contain dangerous levels of heavy metals and can be disposed of with your regular garbage.
  • Fluorescent Light Bulbs, Mercury-Containing Products, and Television/Computer Monitors: Can be brought to your local transfer station for recycling. A small fee may be charged for some items.
  • Infectious and Biological Waste: Call your local hospital safety department for disposal options.
  • Latex/Oil-Based Paint: Paint cannot be disposed of when in liquid form. Open the can to dry the paint, or add kitty litter or waste paint hardener to speed up the drying process. Once paint is dry, the paint can may be disposed of with your regular garbage.
  • Medical Sharps: People who use medical sharps will be able to safely dispose of containers of their used needles in a special kiosk located in the Caribou Police Department Lobby. The kiosk is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Pesticides: The Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) and the Department of Environmental Protection provide citizens with a responsible, free solution to their obsolete pesticide problem. Once a year, these agencies collect obsolete pesticides brought to sites across Maine. Contact the BPC at (207) 287-2731 or email pesticides@maine.gov.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Take unused or unwanted drugs and medications to your local police department for disposal anytime during the year.
  • Propane Tanks: Take them to your local transfer station, if they are accepted there.
  • Rechargeable Batteries: Nickel cadmium (NI-CAD), lithium, small sealed lead, and nickel metal hydroxide batteries (often used in power tools, cell phones, and camcorders) can be brought to your local transfer station, or the place where they were purchased in some cases, for recycling.
Universal Waste

The Department of Environmental Protection has adopted rules to regulate the following examples of universal, or hazardous, wastes.

  • Batteries: Nickel cadmium (NI-CAD), lithium, metal hydride, and small sealed lead acid rechargeable batteries, such as those found in cellular phones, laptop computers, rechargeable power drills, and other portable electronic products. Not alkaline batteries or car batteries.
  • Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs): Video display units, such as computer monitors and televisions.
  • Lamps: The bulbs or tubes portion of an electric lighting device. Fluorescent lamps, high intensity discharge lamps, neon lamps, mercury vapor lamps, high pressure sodium lamps, and metal halide lamps.
  • Mercury Thermostats: Temperature control devices that contain metallic mercury.
  • Totally Enclosed PCB Ballasts: Devices that electronically control light fixtures and include a capacitor.
  • Mercury Thermometers: Manufactured items that have mercury added.
  • Mercury Devices: Mercury switches, sphygmomanometers, and manometers. Does not include motor vehicle switches.
  • Motor Vehicle Mercury Switches: Light switches used to turn light bulbs or lamps on and off. Also found in anti-lock brakes.

The universal waste rules created standards tailored for the management of these hazardous wastes and also ensured that their hazardous constituents are captured and recycled or reused where feasible. For more information on where to recycle universal waste in your community, contact your local transfer station or town office or check out the local programs section above.

For questions regarding Maine’s e-waste law, please contact Maine Department of Environment staff.

Carole Cifrino: (207) 287-2651
Carole.A.Cifrino@Maine.Gov 

Composting

Composting is a natural process of decomposition and recycling of kitchen and yard wastes. Once the waste is decomposed, the resulting material makes an excellent addition to soil in flower and vegetable gardens or general use around the yard.

Composting Ingredients

Compostable material comprises about 30% of the solid waste stream heading into our landfills each day. Ingredients for a successful compost pile include a mix of “greens” (items that are high in nitrogen) and “browns” (items that are high in carbon). Some examples include:

Green (Nitrogen Materials) Brown (Carbon Materials)
  • Grass Clippings
  • Vegetable Waste
  • Manure
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Fruit and Fruit Peels
  • Leaves
  • Hay/Straw
  • Wood Ashes
  • Chipped Wood & Brush
  • Paper
Materials to Avoid
        • Butter
        • Mayonnaise
        • Bones
        • Meat, Poultry, and Fish
        • Cat or Dog Manure
        • Milk, Cheese, and Other Dairy Products
        • Oils and Lard

Building and Managing Your Compost Pile

The material you add to your compost pile will gradually be decomposed by various microorganisms, which will include various insects that you can see and other organisms you won’t see. As the decomposition occurs, the compost pile will heat up, and a well managed pile will reach temperatures between 90 and 140 F. Here are some tips to help build a good compost pile.

Step 1. Select a Location
Select a location for your pile. A good location should allow some shade and protection from high winds. It should also be easily accessible and have a little extra space for stockpiling materials.
Step 2. Start Your Pile
Once you have selected your location, collect enough brown and green material to build a pile that measures about 3 feet square by 3 feet high.
Step 3. Shred Your Material
As you add green and brown materials to the pile, be sure they have been broken up or shredded into small pieces. This helps provide more area for the organisms to feed on, helps promote aeration, and helps retain moisture.
Step 4. Build Your Pile
Once the material has been collected and shredded, build your pile in layers by alternating green material and brown material. Start with a 3″ to 6″ thick layer of brown material at the bottom, and place a 3″ to 6″ thick green layer on top of that. Continue layering until your pile reaches the 3 foot square by 3 foot high size. It is also helpful to water each layer as it is added to promote rapid decomposition.
Step 5. Mix Your Pile
Once you have built your pile, use a pitchfork, shovel, or hoe to thoroughly turn and mix the material. It is also a good idea to turn your pile occasionally during the compost process. Turning can be done as frequently as every few days, once every couple of weeks, or never at all. Just remember that the more frequently you turn and mix the pile, the sooner the decomposition process will be complete.
Step 6. Cover Your Pile
The final step is to cover your pile with a lid or tarp, depending on its size. This will help protect the pile from heavy rain and retain heat.
Step 7. Maintain Your Pile
Managing your pile during the composting process will help ensure the best results. Managing your pile includes watering it and turning it. On average, turning the pile should occur about once per week. Watering it once per week is also recommended to help maintain adequate moisture. Be sure not to overwater, though. The best way to determine if a pile has adequate moisture is to grab a handful of material and squeeze it. It should feel like a squeezed-out sponge. If it’s too dry, add some water with a garden hose or watering can. If it’s too wet, simply keep checking the pile as normal until it dries out somewhat.

Using Your Finished Compost

Finished compost can be used for building healthy lawns, for gardens, for mulch, and even for potting soil. Compost adds valuable nutrients to your soil, increases organic matter in the soil, improves soil structure, and balances pH. As a result of this, compost helps reduce stress on your plants, lawn, shrubs, etc., and can extend the growing season by helping you grow healthier, hardier greenery. Compost also helps control soil erosion and retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for watering from a hose.