In our last post, we shared information about the different transfer and recycling stations available on the island…

But you may be wondering about the whole system:

Here is great visual from Acadia  Disposal District.  For Non Member Towns they sort, process, and sell on their own (we’re sure Southwest has some form of processing agreement with EMR, but honestly that’s in the TMI category for us). Since EMR serves both ADD Towns and Southwest Harbor, they have separate bins at the Long Pond location (for those who had that burning question!)

Probably the first thing to consider is that “Solid Waste Disposal” includes both  recycling opportunities and household trash disposal. If you pay for a curbside pick up service such as Gotts or Pine Tree Waste you’ll simply have to follow their guidelines, but for those who are happy to haul our own there is so much to ponder.

A simple look at the above shows that each location sorts slightly differently so you’ll have to how what your local transfer station does and doesn’t take.  The radical recycler should be able to combine a scenic drive around the Island with stops at multiple stations to ensure all their items are successfully re-purposed! EMR is Southwest is your composting location, folks!

Then we get to trying to figure out what the individual contents of our recycle bins actually are:

Cans are easy and they have those fun little magnets on the recycle containers so you can check whether it’s aluminum  or not – that’ll keep the kids entertained for a few minutes.

Plastics: you’re looking for the little triangle recycle sign with the number. This number identifies the type of plastic and what can be done with it to those in the know! For us plebes, it seems like it’s normally either all plastic together or #2 separated.

The cardboard category seems pretty easy, other than the what is paperboard as opposed to boxboard or papercore. Well, as far as I’ve been able to find out, paperboard and boxboard are basically the same (think your cereal box), though the thickness seems to determine which term is used. There are lots of different classifications, but we won’t go into all of that here! Cardboard seems to technically refer to corrugated cardboard and is heavier duty and has less processing/additives, so it is simpler and cheaper to recycle – hence many places have you separate cardboard from other paper goods so it can be sold on without further sorting being required. Now papercore is basically the paperboard shaped to be a core of something.

Molded pulp is things such as egg cartons and packaging insert – paper pulp dried into a specific shape. This is recyclable too.

Some places take lightbulbs, some don’t. It’s mixed media with glass and metal, but different bulbs types (LED, flourescent etc) have different additives that may require special handling, so their recycling will depend on what is deemed worthwhile at each location.

Only NEH Transfer Station appears to have any kind of system for deposit bottles, at the others, they are just included in recycled glass. Bar Harbor used to have a bin set up for a local non profit, but they were never collected and became a health and safety issue so was discontinued. The advent of “Clynk” and other redemption centers has hopefully made reclaiming those deposit dollars easier. If you want to donate to a charitable cause many organizations will give you pre-stickered bags through the Hannaford Community Cash program and the Bar Harbor Hannaford has a bottle slip donation program

This of course highlights the bane of recycling for many – the sorting!


Basically if you sort well your transfer station peeps don’t have to re-sort everything, so give ’em a break! Correct sorting actually helps you, too, as not only is labor saved, but prices are better for sorted product.

Is there a point where your transfer station peeps give up and just trash the recyclables rather than sort them? As long as items are worth recycling, then it is worth the staff sorting. The highest probability of this happening is when things are thrown into the recycle bins dirty. Enough food waste will make cardboard non recyclable  – think pizza boxes here. However, the good news is that much of this contaminated product can still be burned for energy, so it’s not all just sitting in the landfill.

One mans trash is another mans treasure, but beware:


Certain transfer stations have an area where people can leave items that might be wanted by another, but these can be unwieldy to manage and sooner or later someone at the station has to clean it all up. Of course, if you can see something in there you want you can always pick it out – or maybe not. Honestly, it’s  kind of dangerous and it isn’t encouraged anywhere for safety reasons- remember the lady who got trapped trying to remove stuff from the donation bin.

One comment on “A Guide To Our Local Transfer Stations (Part Two)

  • I think that Tremont and SWH tax payers with residences (not wood lots or vacant lots) are allowed a ton of construction debris (and brush/leaves ?) each year – free at EMR in Southwest Harbor. Weigh in before you dump it and weigh out before you leave.

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