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'Living Green': Examining Maine's thriving and underestimated reuse market

Maine's reuse market plays a prominent and important role in the state's culture. It provides not just environmental, but also social and economic benefits to society.

SEARSPORT, ORONO (NEWS CENTER Maine) — In every corner of the state, you see signs of Maine's thriving reuse market. From roadside thrift stores to high-end antique shops, pawn shops to used car dealerships, the reuse economy is woven into the fabric of our society.

Not only is participating in the reuse market a fun way to shop, but it's also the environmentally sustainable shopping choice.

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Research suggests reuse can ease pressure on natural resources, all while preventing waste. In other words, it doesn't just reduce the items going into the waste stream, but it also saves a significant amount of energy and materials that go into the production and redistribution of new products.

A team of researchers at the University of Maine in Orono has discovered Maine's reuse market is thriving and underestimated.

"Maine's reuse economy, relative to other states, is really vibrant, and it's consistently so," says UMaine professor and researcher Cynthia Isenhour.

The researchers are trying to figure out why the reuse market is so strong in Maine. For now, they have a few hypothesizes.

"Some people would say, oh it's because it's an economically marginal state, they don't have as much new product retail so we rely more on second-hand...We think it also has to do with culture and ideologies around self-sufficiency," says Isenhour.

The benefits of a strong reuse market go beyond environmental efficiency. There are also social benefits.

Researcher Brieanne Berry says, "If I'm giving something to you that can help you, that's building this sort of social network that can help communities and individuals that live within those communities."

There are also economic benefits to the reuse market.

"It can save people a lot of money at the household level, but we also have to think about how many people here in Maine, particularly because we have such a strong antique sector, how many people are employed by this," Isenhour says.