WATERVILLE — Over the next several days, residents will lug out the rubbish for the last pickup before a new system of city trash collection begins, bringing changes to long-standing habits.

City rubbish pickup transitions to a pay-as-you-throw system in the fall, but city leaders hope that by starting curbside recycling now, residents will develop recycling habits that will mean less trash and lower costs under the new program.

“It’s a relaxing time of year,” Public Works Director Mark Turner said. “I think people will gradually ease into it. That’s what we’re hoping.”

City councilors approved the recycling program and the new pay-as-you-throw trash collection system in an effort to help reduce the waste stream and the expected strain on city finances when the city’s contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington expires in 2018. The cost to the city of trash collection is expected to increase significantly in the next contract.

The pay-as-you-throw system begins in September, when residents will be required to buy official trash bags for rubbish disposal.

Under pay-as-you-throw, residents will have to purchase special trash bags, place nonrecyclable trash in them and place them at the curb on their regular trash pickup day. While the recycling portion of the program starts July 21, the trash bag component does not begin until Sept. 8.

City Clerk Patti Dubois, who has been helping to coordinate the new program, stresses that people do not have to use the blue Ecomaine recycling bins that have been given away at recent informational sessions.

Metal or plastic trash cans or other rigid containers, including cardboard boxes, may be used for recyclables as long as they are clearly marked “recycling/recyclables,” she said.

A single Ecomaine bin, she said, probably is not large enough to hold all a family’s recyclables collected over a two-week period, so more than one container may be used.

Recyclables will be picked up at curbs by Sullivan’s Waste, a Thorndike contractor, on regular trash pickup days in the first and third weeks of every month. The city’s Public Works Department will pick up trash at the curb weekly, as it does now.

All recyclable material, including paper, glass, cardboard, cans, newspapers, magazines and plastics, may be placed in one recycling container. Sullivan’s will take the recyclables to Ecomaine, a nonprofit recycling and waste-to-energy operation, in Portland, where the material will be sorted.

The recycling pickup schedule is listed on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov.

The North Carolina company, WasteZero, is coordinating trash bag sales for the city and is working to contract with stores and locations the city designated as preferred sites for the sale of bags. The sites will be announced later in the summer. WasteZero will supply each location with bags, track the number of bags sold and split the proceeds with the city.

Residents will be able to buy two sizes of bags, which are purple: 30-gallon bags that cost $2 each and will be sold in rolls of five, for $10 a roll; and 15-gallon bags that cost $1.25 each and will be sold in rolls of eight, also for $10 a roll. The city will get $1.68 for every larger bag sold and $1.05 for each smaller bag. WasteZero will get 32 cents for a large bag and 20 cents for a small one.

The stores that sell the bags receive nothing.

“Retailers receive no part of the proceeds,” said Joshua Kolling-Perin, director of public engagement for WasteZero. “They may do it for civic duty and certainly they can see some additional traffic, because they’re offering something that everybody needs.”

The city, WasteZero and Ecomaine will host an informational session on single-stream recycling and pay-as-you-throw from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Kennebec Valley Community Action Program at 97 Water St. in the city’s South End. It will have been the fourth such session held, and Dubois said another informational session will be held in August, at a date yet to be announced, and that date will be listed on the city’s website.

A limited number of Ecomaine recycling bins will be given away at that event, and the city is ordering more bins to be available at the Public Works Department when they arrive, she said.

Turner said Thursday that the Ecomaine bins are being given away as a promotional item to help spread awareness of the recycling program. Like Dubois, he said 30-gallon trash cans would hold a lot more recyclables than the bins.

He noted that the pay-as-you-throw system really is voluntary; residents may choose to hire private trash haulers to collect their waste instead of taking part in the new program. Even if people take part in pay-as-you-throw, they are not required to recycle, but their cost to dispose of waste will be a lot less if they do recycle, as the amount of trash they discard in the bags they buy will be significantly less, he said.

In August, the city will mail informational packets to residents that will include sample 15 and 30-gallon trash bags that will be sold as part of the program, Turner said. Then they will be able to determine which size of bag work better for them, he said.

“I think as people start doing it, they’re going to discover more and more the things that they can redirect to the recycling stream,” he said.

It is important that people not place garbage, construction debris, or other nonrecyclables in recycling bins, he said.

Turner said he thinks the city is ready for the new program.

“We’re as ready as we’re going to be,” he said. “It’s going to be a work in progress, probably, for the first few weeks or months. We’ll see how this plays out and make adjustments as we go.”

Turner said he will be attending the Friday informational session.

“I’m ready as best I can be to help out and answer questions and make sure that the logistics and operation of the program goes as well as we can make it for everyone,” he said.

Summertime, he said, is a good time to launch such a program and hopefully, everyone will work together to make it operate as smoothly as possible.

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

The city estimates it will save $325,000 in the first 10 months the program is in operation. It will pay Sullivan’s $78,000 a year to collect and transport the recyclables to Ecomaine.

Meanwhile, a referendum will be held June 9, 2015, so residents may repeal pay-as-you-throw if they are not satisfied with the program.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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