As the recycling industry struggles to recover from the one-two punch of China upending global markets followed by the continuing complication of the pandemic, one town is seeing some success by reinventing its whole approach, starting with communication. “Where your effort needs to be is educating your community. You have to educate people if you want recycling to succeed,” said Meghan Theriault, Public Works director in Gilford, which just won a statewide industry award for “engaging residents.”

A case in point, she said: Styrofoam. That ubiquitous packing material can’t be recycled even though it carries the misleading three-arrows-in-a-triangle symbol. The symbol doesn’t mean an item can be recycled; it only indicates what the item is made of. Letting residents know about the problem with Styrofoam, so they won’t toss it in the recycling bin, can save the town money because it means less of its recycling stream will be rejected by buyers. “We’re trying to promote recycling in a positive way,” said Theriault.

Gilford, a town of 7,300, has completely revamped its recycling program in the last two years. Residents formerly used Laconia’s transfer station for their trash but Gilford has built its own facility. Just as importantly, it switched from single-stream, in which all potentially recyclable materials are jumbled together, to requiring that residents separate out different items. This comes as the world’s recycling industry is still adjusting to China’s decision three years ago to stop taking huge amounts of material, regardless of quality. The price of most recycled materials collapsed when that happened, turning a profitable operation into a big loss for many towns and cities.

To read the full story, visit
Author: David Brooks, Concord Monitor
Image Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor