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Recycling center no longer accepting certain plastics

HOULTON, Maine — Decisions overseas have led to changes in the material that the Pine Tree Waste Transfer Station will accept for recycling.

Casella, which owns the Houlton transfer station, notified its customers last month that starting Sept. 16, the business would no longer accept certain types of plastic for recycling.

That includes No. 1 and Nos. 3-7 rigid plastic, plastic wrap, plastic bags or bubble wrap.

The business now accepts only No. 2 plastics, clear and colored.

Town Manager Marian Anderson said that officials were notified of the changes by the business last month. She alerted Town Councilors to the information during a meeting on Sept. 23.

“It seems that it is not just here, it is a trend,” she said. “This situation is going on in other towns and states across the country due to action in China.”

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, China was once the largest importer of U.S. recyclables and largest importer of recyclable materials in the world. But the country has imposed stricter guidelines on what it will accept as recyclable material.

China bans the import of 24 types of recyclable materials and established tight restrictions for other recyclables. Many recycling companies have been forced to curtail their recycling programs or dispose of recyclables.

According to information provided by Casella, that has resulted in a 90 percent drop in market value for mixed paper and a 63 percent drop in the value of the traditional recycling stream after the country announced its decision.

The plastic that the business is no longer accepting is significant. Number one plastic is the most frequently recycled one, and can be found in peanut butter jars, plastic soda and water bottles, microwavable food trays, and salad dressing bottles. Number three plastic includes Polyvinyl chloride (PVC,) and also appears in cooking oil and shampoo bottles, medical tubing, wire jacketing, and window cleaner spray bottles.

Plastic number four includes shrink wrap, dry cleaning, bread and grocery bags, as well as frozen food and grocery bags.

The remaining plastics include the material used in take-out containers, disposable plates and cutlery, aspirin bottles, egg cartons and oven baking bags.

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