A variety of containers can make it easy to sort compost, recyclables and trash at home. (PHILIP CONNER PHOTO)

From the Harpswell Recycling Committee

If you’re new to town, a summer visitor, or just need a refresher about the Harpswell Recycling Center and Transfer Station, this column is for you!

Proper use of the facility begins at home. It is far easier to do the bulk of your sorting and planning before arriving at the center. Basically, you need to separate recyclable materials, trash, compost (garbage-to-garden) and returnable containers.

As you turn off Mountain Road and onto Community Drive, turn left into the Recycling Center to dispose of recyclable materials, household trash, compostable material (anything that grows, including bones and shells) and returnable containers — or go straight up the hill to the Transfer Station for almost everything else.

The Recycling Center is free to Harpswell residents; there are charges for using the Transfer Station depending on the weight of materials.

As you enter the Recycling Center, you will notice two large bins, one marked “trash” and another marked “recycle,” plus some smaller bins marked “compost.” Please use the list on the town’s website to help you decide what is recyclable and what is trash and what needs to go to the transfer station. If you use the list and have questions, please let us know so we can improve the list. If you’re at the station and you’re not sure where something goes, ask the staff.

Generally, clean plastic marked with a triangle on the bottom (Nos. 1-7), paper, magazines, cardboard, cans and glass go in the “recycle” bin. Most household trash goes into the “trash” bin. Lawn trimmings, wood, metal, large batteries, construction debris, refrigerators, etc. go to the Transfer Station.

Plastic bags are not to be deposited into the recycling bin. If you bring recyclables in a plastic bag, dump the bag into the recycling bin and reuse the plastic bag or deposit it into the trash bin. The only time a plastic bag is permitted in the recycling bin is if it contains only shredded paper.

If you have materials for the Transfer Station, proceed up the hill until you see a stop sign, scales and a small office building. When clear, drive slowly onto the scales and stop. You will see an attendant through the office window who records your vehicle’s total weight. If you don’t know where to deposit your load, ask the attendant for instructions. After you unload at the proper location, drive slowly back onto the scales and stop to be weighed again. When this is complete, drive forward to clear the scales, park, go to the window and pay the amount due. Only cash is accepted.

Sorting at home can be made a bit easier by using different containers to accumulate what you need to dispose of. Google “household trash recycling containers” and you will see a multitude of choices. It is handy to have one or two large bins to store filled plastic bags from household receptacles or recycling bins. Separate containers for un-bagged trash or un-bagged recyclables can be useful. Accumulating compostable material can be made easier by using small kitchen containers with carbon filters and then moving these to a small trash bin using a composable bag. The compost bins accept compostable bags.

Refer to the town website for hours and days of operation. The most frequent question I receive from friends is, “Why are they not open every day?” Your Recycling Center and Transfer Station is extremely cost-efficient, especially compared to those in other small towns. It operates with a small, well-trained, experienced workforce. Being open more days or every day would require a larger workforce, resulting in increased labor expenses, and those expenses would come from tax revenue. The current schedule provides a good balance of efficiency and convenience.