WATERVILLE — Residents are getting a chance to learn more about the city’s new recycling program that will take effect in July and get an advance look at the pay-to-throw trash collection that starts in the fall.

A limited number of free recycling bins will be distributed as part of information sessions that will be hosted by Ecomaine, the Portland company that will handle the city’s recyclables, when the program starts the week of July 21.

The first session will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Elm Plaza off Main Street. Additional sessions, also held on Fridays, will be July 11 at Shaw’s Plaza off Kennedy Memorial Drive and July 18 at Kennebec Valley Community Action Program at 97 Water St., in the city’s South End.

A first session was held June 20 at The Concourse downtown, and Ecomaine gave away all 100 recycle bins that were available at the event, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois. The recycling program is part of the city’s new pay-as-you-throw trash disposal system that city councilors approved recently. While residents will begin leaving recyclables at the curb the week of July 21, they will start the pay-as-you-throw trash system Sept. 8.

But even as the city prepares to start the programs, some residents are upset with the change. Critics say the trash system will be a financial burden for the poor and people on fixed incomes, and some fear it will result in more illegal waste dumping.

Program supporters say the change creates a fairer system in which people are paying for how much they use, like other utilities, and point out that many other Maine communities have made the switch without problems.

The city has set a referendum on the matter for June 9, 2015, so residents may repeal pay-as-you-throw if they are not satisfied with the program after one year.

Waterville officials say the idea behind the new system is to dump less trash in landfills, save the city money and follow more environmentally sound practices. City officials say they believe that if people have to pay for their trash they will recycle more.

When pay-as-you-throw takes effect, special trash bags will be sold at designated stores. Residents will fill them with trash and leave them at the curb on their regularly-scheduled trash days.

Residents will be able to buy two sizes of bags — 30-gallon bags that will cost $2 each, and 15-gallon bags that will cost $1.25 each. All bags are purple.

Recyclables will be picked up at the curb the first and third week of every month, with the first week being the one that is a full week — Monday through Friday. On regular trash collection days, residents will leave their recyclables at the curb, to be taken to Ecomaine and sorted. Ecomaine will not charge the city for taking recyclables.

Now, residents who want to recycle must cart their recyclables to Shredding on Site, on Armory Road. The city has operated a curbside recycling program in the past, but stopped the practice 15 years ago because it was seen as too expensive.

People wanting to dispose of large appliances such as refrigerators and stoves typically take them to Pine Tree Waste on Airport Road and pay a fee; or they may sell them, as well as cars and other metal goods, to One Steel, a recycling operation, on Ayer Street in Oakland, according to Mark Turner, Waterville’s public works director.

Turner said he thinks residents will recycle properly as part of the city’s new program and that the city will not have to issue a lot of warnings for improper items placed in recycling bins at the curb.

“I hope that doesn’t happen very often,” Turner said. “I trust that our residents are going to use good judgment and do the proper thing as far as disposal.”

Turner said there will not be any penalties or fines issued for improper recycling.

“Illegal dumping could result in fines, if people are caught for that, but that would be a police matter,” he said.

Residents who live in buildings of four or fewer units will recycle through the city collection; landlords with more units will need to contract with private haulers.

Accepted recyclables include paper, newspaper, paperboard, cardboard, aluminum and tin cans, foil, pie plates, glass and plastic, all of which are to be placed in one container. Putting all the recyclables in one container is known as single-sort recycling.

“With single-sort recycling, where all the recyclable materials go into a single bin, recycling becomes easier and the recycling rate tends to go up as a result,” Ecomaine’s chief executive officer, Kevin Roche, said in a news release. “That’s good for the people of Waterville and the people of Maine.”

Items not accepted for recycling include garbage, batteries, clothing, shoes, food, cat litter, light bulbs, food, paper towels and napkins, plastic wrap or film, trash bags, potato chip bags, and waxed paper.

The city’s website, waterville-me.gov, and Ecomaine’s website, ecomaine.org, offer a more complete listing of recyclable and non-recyclable items. The city website also will display a calendar showing the recycling schedule; that schedule also will be on hand at Ecomaine information sessions.

Dubois, who has been working to provide residents with information about the new program, said that it is not necessary for people to use an Ecomaine recycling bin; they may a plastic or metal garbage bin as long as it’s clearly marked “recycle/recycling.”

“Everyone isn’t going to get a bin and they don’t need a special bin,” she said.

Ecomaine is a nonprofit recycling and waste-to-energy operation that serves 25 percent of the state’s population and is owned by 21 communities, according to the company. In addition to using Ecomaine to dispose of recyclables, Waterville has contracted with Sullivan’s Waste, of Thorndike, to pick up recyclables at the curb and haul them to Ecomaine’s center, at a cost of $78,000 per year. WasteZero, a North Carolina company, will coordinate the pay-as-you-throw program and will supply stores and other locations the city designates as vendors with the special trash bags residents must use for their rubbish.

Dubois said Wednesday that those sales locations are not yet finalized. The city gave WasteZero a list of places it hopes will sell the bags and WasteZero is now contacting vendors individually.

“WasteZero is doing a mailing to local vendors to develop contracts with them, so they’re in the process of finalizing that,” Dubois said.

The 30-gallon trash bags will be sold in rolls of five and will cost $10 a roll; the 15-gallon bags will be sold in rolls of eight and a roll also will cost $10, according to Sarah Bernier, WasteZero’s account manager for municipal partnerships.

WasteZero will keep track of how many bags are sold, and pay the city $1.68 for each $2 bag sold, keeping 32 cents, according to Bernier, who said she plans to be at Friday’s information session at Elm Plaza.

For each $1.25 bag, WasteZero will pay the city $1.05 for every 15-gallon bag sold and keep 20 cents, she said.

Trash bags left at the curb will be picked up by the city’s public works employees, as they are now, and taken to the Oakland Transfer Station. From there, the trash is hauled to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington. The city’s contract with PERC expires in 2018 and after that, the cost to dispose of trash could triple, according to city officials, who say that is the reason the city is starting the new program now.

The city estimates that its solid waste tonnage could decrease 25 to 40 percent with pay-as-you-throw.

Other Maine communities that use pay-as-you-throw include Bath, Biddeford, Brewer, Brunswick, Cumberland, Eliot, North Yarmouth, Old Town, Pownal, Presque Isle, Sanford, Wells and Windham. Waste Zero runs programs for those communities.

The pay-as-you-throw program is estimated to save the city $325,000 in the first 10 months, from September this year through June 30 next year, when the fiscal year ends.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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