The attendants at Harpswell’s Recycling Center and Transfer Station, like Donnette Goodenow, are glad to answer questions about recycling. (Gina Snyder photo)

We know a product is recyclable when we see the “chasing arrows” symbol. But not many know that the symbol came from a design contest sponsored by the Container Corporation of America in 1970. The designer, a college senior named Gary Anderson, explained that the arrows represented the steps to recycling. The first arrow represents the materials and their place in the bin on the curbside. The second arrow signifies manufacturing, with the curve denoting the transformation of used materials into new products. The last arrow represents the purchasing step — when consumers buy recycled items, they start the process over again.

Recycling has come a long way from those early days. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that the whole process starts with all of us putting recyclables into the bin to be recycled.

Today, the three arrows are more often taken to symbolize the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. With 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in 2018 — or 4.9 pounds per person per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( — it’s more important to reduce, reuse and recycle than ever before.

While the chasing arrows are used on plastic, usually with a number in the middle to denote what type of plastic it is, there are many things beyond plastics that can be recycled, even though they don’t all have the chasing arrows! From aerosol cans (empty) to wine bottles, so much of what gets thrown away as trash is actually recyclable.

Harpswell has an “A to Z” guide on the town website to give guidance on all sorts of solid waste and where it should go at the Recycling Center and Transfer Station ( Books and bottles, cans and cardboard, magazines and milk cartons, paper and plastic — all of these can be recycled, and more. The color-coded guide can be printed out and posted for guests, too. If you’re ever unsure, you can ask the attendants at the Recycling Center. They are always glad to help you help our town recycle right!

Harpswell has a host of information on the Recycling Center and Transfer Station webpage ( to help you manage all your solid waste. The page includes details on everything you can recycle and compost.