WATERVILLE — The success of the residential curbside recycling program has proved to be a headache for some small businesses.

A local business, Shredding on Site, had been accepting residential and small business recyclables at no cost for about a year. But when the city launched a voluntary curbside recycling program July 21, things changed quickly.

The city’s curbside recycling program proved to be so successful that the tons of recyclable materials that Shredding on Site had been receiving dwindled to the point where owner Craig Lefebvre said he had to stop accepting the items.

City officials are discussing possible solutions to the void created when the Armory Road firm stopped taking recyclables from small businesses.

The change meant that residents still had an outlet for their recyclables — curbside recycling — but small commercial operations were left without a ready alternative.

Bruce Fowler, property manager for downtown office and retail buildings owned by Sidney Geller, had been taking recyclables to Shredding on Site, but when he went there recently to drop off recyclables, he discovered it no longer took them. He had no recourse but to place what would have been recycling into the trash, he said.

“We throw it in our Dumpster and pay to have it hauled as solid waste,” Fowler said Thursday.

He estimated about eight 55-gallon drums of cardboard and paper recyclables that he collected weekly from the Cyr building at 177-179 Main St., at the corner of Appleton and Main streets downtown, now goes into the waste stream. About a 55-gallon drum worth of recyclables from 18 Silver St. also now goes into the trash, he said.

Geller said he has access to two trash receptacles he has been throwing recyclables into. He said he thinks the city should provide a recycling receptacle for downtown businesses.

“It’s a service that would take stuff out of the landfills,” he said.

City Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said Thursday that he and City Manager Michael Roy plan to meet with Lefevbre to see what it would take for Lefebvre to start taking the small business recyclables again. He and Roy also plan to speak with trash haulers to see if a receptacle for recyclables could be placed downtown, where most of the smaller businesses that need such an outlet are located. Thomas, who serves on the city’s Solid Waste Recycling Committee, said he does not know whether it would be cost-free for businesses.

“I can’t say for sure until we talk to the haulers, but it would probably be at no cost to them,” Thomas said.

Public Works Director Mark Turner explained that the Waterville-Winslow Solid Waste Corp. ran a recycling operation many years ago on Industrial Drive and took commercial recyclables from Thomas and Colby colleges. Ken-A-Set Association bought the operation and offered a drop-off for residential recyclables and then started taking recyclables from small commercial operations, such as downtown businesses. Skills, Inc. eventually took over the operation but discontinued it last year. The city had paid Skills $12,500 a year to take residential recyclables.

Fowler had taken recyclable refuse from the downtown properties to Skills Inc. for 18 years until switching to Shredding on Site last year when Skills closed its drop off operation.

Lefebvre, of Shredding on Site, offered to take the recyclables at no charge to the city after Skills shut down its operation, Turner said.

“He was doing this to be nice to the city — he knew we were in a bind,” Turner said.

Meanwhile, the city developed a new pay-as-you-throw system of trash collection that starts Sept. 8. As part of the program, residents will place their trash at the curb on regular trash collection days, but they will place recyclable materials in separate containers and place them at the curb the first and third full weeks of the month on their regular trash collection day.

The city launched a voluntary recycling program July 21 to help people get ready in advance of the Sept. 8 pay-as-you-throw start date.

But no one really foresaw just how successful the recycling program would be, least of all the folks at Shredding on Site.

“Shredding on Site’s volume decreased dramatically after the city began curbside recycling on July 21 — immediate and drastic decline in recycling up there,” Turner said Thursday.

Lefebvre was unavailable for comment Thursday, but Turner said Shredding on Site, a large commercial shredding operation that takes materials from large institutions and organizations from around the site, will continue in business.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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