Regular readers of this column know that we at Northeast CONTACT are big fans of recycling. It just seems logical to make as responsible choices in the proper disposal of the stuff of our lives as we did in buying that stuff in the first place.

So it seems logical to do a brief recycling update at the start of this, National Recycling Week. It’s still a goal of the state of Maine that all communities recycle at least 50 percent of their waste. That’s been a target for many years; some communities come closer than others, but as a state we’re still a long way from realizing that goal.

Businesses are probably getting higher marks, because their recycling is mandatory. By law, businesses with more than 15 employees must recycle office paper and corrugated cardboard. Kudos to them for doing so.

The news flash during Recycling Week and throughout this month is a contest for middle school, high school and college students. The producers of the best video about recycling win a $1,000 school technology grant (two runners-up get grants of $250 each for their schools).

The top prizewinner will get help from video pros in producing a public service announcement to be aired statewide. Details are available at the Maine State Planning Office Web site (

One of the biggest obstacles to boosting recycling rates is the very nature of the endeavor. Some materials recycle easily, and others don’t. Most of us are aware of the special handling needed for computer monitors and television sets, to name just two pieces of consumer electronics. Manufacturers have been working with government regulators on problem areas. For example, manufacturers share the cost of recycling products made by out-of-business firms — so-called “orphaned” goods.

Some other problems may be lesser known. We might assume that, since it’s made from sand, glass is glass. However, drinking glasses, ovenware and other heavy types of glass may not recycle well. Australia warns against recycling these items because of the higher temperatures required to melt them down. People at your local recycling center can likely tell you about items to keep out of the recycling bin.

A previous article discussed the problems that recycling of cell phones can create. Recycled into the hands of children, the old phones can cause havoc at local police stations. Pressing buttons randomly can send a call to emergency responders, who should be dealing with real problems. Bottom line: Don’t give old cell phones to youngsters.

On the other hand, they can be recycled. Victims of domestic abuse and other people who don’t have access to phones for a variety of reasons would be very grateful for your unwanted cell phone.

The last word in recycling may be composting. Reusing leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds and other food waste (fruit and vegetable only, please) makes environmental sense. Composting in our backyard would likely do more than any other single step to make recycling goals reachable.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or e-mail