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In the process of brewing beer, there are certain materials that accumulate. Additionally, these materials tend not to be the easiest to recycle. We’re referring to things like plastic grain bags, plastic stretch wrap, PakTech carriers, and more.

To recycle these materials, we gather up a large amount, bail it into one compact cube, and then work with local recycling companies to make sure it’s properly disposed of. We’re at a size where we create enough of this waste that bailing it up and shipping it out to be recycled is possible. But, we realized, there are quite a few smaller breweries, and businesses, in our area who can’t do the same. To explain, for materials like these, you need a lot of them in order for a recycler to be able to handle them efficiently. So smaller organizations would have trouble accumulating enough.

PakTechs about to be recycled at the Allagash Recycling Co-Op

PakTech carriers, ready for recycling.

Grain bags, about to be recycled at the Allagash Recycling Co-Op

These “super-sacks” can hold up to 2,000 lbs of grain. Now, they’re about to be recycled.

What’s a Recycling Co-Op?

The idea is this: every Friday, any local business that’s interested in participating simply drives up and drops off their hard-to-recycle materials with us. We then add those materials together with ours and ship them off to a place where they’ll be properly recycled or re-used. It’s a simple model with robust results. In 2020, our first year of running the co-op, we recycled around 52 tons of material. In 2021, we recycled 70 tons.

To be specific, the items we currently take in our co-op are:

  • PakTech Carriers
  • Plastic wrap
  • Grain bags
  • Cardboard (paperboard, cardboard, shrink wrap tubes)
  • Metal caps/cages
  • Keg caps
  • cans/bottles
Bailer at the Allagash Recycling Co-Op

This bailer can compress a whole lot of material, making it much easier and more efficient to ship.

A member of the Allagash Recycling Co-Op writes down amounts

Oly, one of the folks that runs our Co-Op, helps keep a record of all the numbers, so we can track our progress.

Members of the Co-Op

Our group of participants has also grown. Where we had 7 different businesses in our co-op in 2020, we now have around 20. This growth in membership and waste diversion also helped us win a sustainability grant to help us buy another bailer as well as an industrial scale, to help us keep closer track of how much of every material we’re diverting from the landfill.

Some of our local friends taking advantage of our co-op include: Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers Brewing, Foundation Brewing, Rising Tide, and even non-brewery friends like Revision Energy, who drops off a once-per-month load of plastic “spacers” and shrink wrap. Another fun fact is that some of the waste is even given a new life. For example, we supplied local artist Titi de Baccarat with materials for his sculpture projects.

We’re proud of our co-op’s growth, and can’t wait to see how it continues to expand as time goes on! And if you’re a business that would like to get involved, simply shoot us an email at: werecycle@allagash.com

Brett has been a part of the Allagash Marketing Team since 2016. He's a big fan of sharing the many stories Allagash has to offer, through blogs, newsletters, as the host of their podcast, and in intermittent appearances on social media.