WATERVILLE — An overwhelming number of residents complied with the new pay-as-you-throw trash collection system that launched Monday, but dozens did not put their garbage in the required purple trash bags, raising questions about enforcement.

City officials say garbage left at the curb that’s not bagged properly won’t be picked up, but it’s not clear if violators will be cited or punished, since the city solid waste ordinance was never amended for the pay-as-you-throw system.

Public Works Director Mark Turner said the amount of trash collected was about a third less than the same amount on the same day last year — a “remarkable” result for the program designed to cut down on the amount of garbage residents throw out.

But questions remain about what to do about the small amount that didn’t get picked up.

The city ordinance says trash must be left curbside between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m., but it does not stipulate that it must be in the city’s required bags. It also does not address pay-as-you-throw enforcement.

Joshua Kolling-Perin, director of public engagement for Waste Zero, the company that supplies the city’s trash bags to retailers, said most municipalities update their ordinances to address the system.

“In general, there needs to be an ordinance change requiring that the trash must be put up in the specified bags,” he said.

William Lee, city solicitor, however, said the City Council has authority to change the rules regarding trash and to institute pay-as-you-throw.

“Do we need to amend our ordinance to expressly state that we’re going to punish people for doing this? I’m not going to say this — not yet I’m not,” Lee said Monday. “If it appears some issues develop with pay-as-you-throw — that some modification to the existing ordinance or an additional ordinance might be deemed necessary — I’m sure that the council would look at it.”

Out of about 800 stops Waterville’s trash truck made Monday, mostly in the north end, city workers put bright orange tags on 67 trash cans or bags notifying residents they were not in compliance with pay-as-you-throw, said Public Works Director Mark Turner.

Turner said he was stunned when he saw the results of the first day of pay-as-you-throw.

“Last year on this day we did 17.24 tons of trash — that’s how much we hauled,” he said. “Today, we hauled 6.59 tons. ‘Remarkable’ is the word I would use. We don’t know if this trend will continue, but if it does, it will be a significant savings for the city and its taxpayers for their trash disposal.”

Kolling-Perin said the number of households not complying with pay-as-you-throw on the first day in Waterville seemed normal.

“It would also be completely normal next week if some households weren’t 100 percent on board,” he said. “Certainly, this is a normal sign on the path toward a successful program — not an aberration at all.”

The city projects it will save between $300,000 and $350,000 a year in trash disposal fees with pay-as-you-throw.

Under the program, city workers will not pick trash up at houses that do not use special purple bags that may be bought at locations designated by the city. Thirty-gallon bags are packaged in rolls of five; 15-gallon bags are packaged in rolls of eight. Both rolls are $10.

The orange tags spell out where to buy the bags and how much they cost. The tags also list names and phone numbers of city councilors in case residents have any questions.

Turner said trash left at the curb Monday would likely be picked up later if it is ultimately placed in the city’s purple bags.

‘IT’S EXPENSIVE’

At least one resident said he was not going to buy the bags for his trash that was not picked up.

“We don’t have any money right now,” said Dennis Madison, 42, of Ticonic Street.

Madison stood on the street Monday morning where his large trash can containing trash was tagged by public works.

The trash, which had a strong odor, was not in a bag and the can did not have a cover. It included a large potato chip bag, an English muffin box and plastic wrapper, a hot dog container, cans and clothes, a mixture of both trash and recyclable items.

Madison said he got a free city trash bag in the mail and he used it for some of his trash, but put the rest in the can, expecting it to be picked up. He also left a set of plastic drawers, which also was not collected.

“I think it’s expensive,” Madison said of pay-as-you-throw. “I never even knew it was going on until they sent us the plastic bags.”

The city recently mailed fliers and two sample trash bags, one of each size, to city residents, with instructions about what to put in the trash bags and what items to recycle.

As part of pay-as-you-throw, residents put recyclable materials, including plastic, paper and cans, at the curb in a separate container labeled recyclables. Recyclables are picked up the first and third full weeks of the month on regular trash collection days.

On Monday, which was not in the first full week of the month, many recycling containers were at the curb, and many were overflowing with recyclables. But since it was not a recycling week, they were not picked up.

Some left trash in white or black garbage bags on streets including Ticonic, Alden, Ash, Oak, Birch, High and Edwards streets. Some of the orange public works tags had fallen or were torn off of the bags or trash cans and were lying on the ground. In some places, trash and recyclable materials were mixed together in cans and boxes.

Residents are not being forced to participate in pay-as-you-throw. They may contract with private haulers to take their trash if they want.

QUESTION OF ENFORCEMENT

City Manager Michael Roy said Monday that anyone who leaves trash at the curb and refuses to place it in the appropriate city bag will not be fined, but the city won’t pick up the trash either.

“We’re looking for voluntary cooperation, and we’ll do everything we can to help people with that,” Roy said. “We’re not going to reward people by going around and picking up the garbage when they refuse to make an effort to comply.”

But the practice of leaving trash on the street poses a problem, said Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1.

“The city is responsible for keeping the city clean and safe, and if there’s a tremendous amount of trash left out uncollected, the city has to clean it up,” Stubbert said.

Stubbert was one of two councilors who objected to pay-as-you-throw, which the council approved June 3 as part of a $37.2 million municipal and school budget for 2014-15. He and Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, voted against the budget because of pay-as-you-throw.

The city’s trash ordinance says the public works department will be responsible for administration of trash collection, and all or part of those responsibilities may be assigned to other entities by contractual agreements approved by municipal officers.

Stubbert said that he argued all along that people would dump trash illegally around the city, but his opinion was “poo-pooed.”

“They’re going to dump it on Airport Road, they’re going to dump it on County Road, they’re going to dump it in the cemetery and it’s going to be expensive for the city to clean it up,” Stubbert said Monday.

He added that he thought people will stash trash in basements and inside buildings, and landlords ultimately will have to clean it up.

“If the city says we’re not going to be picking it up because we want to sell the people bags, that’s fine, but if people don’t comply and leave it on the side of the road, we have to clean it up,” he said. “You’re not going to arrest 30 percent of the people in the city because that’s not going to work.”

Lee said leaving trash by the curb in inappropriate containers could violate the state’s littering laws.

But Deputy police Chief Charles Rumsey would not say those who don’t comply will be charged.

“We are aware that the new change is in effect,” Rumsey said Monday. “We also are aware public works and the city administration is going to work very hard with the residents of Waterville to understand the requirements of pay-as-you-throw and to comply with those requirements.”

He said any problems would be considered in a case-by-case basis.

“If, at the end of the day, there is someone who is just willfully refusing to remove their trash or comply with pay-as-you-throw, we will then take all the facts of the case into consideration and determine if there is an action appropriate for the police department to take,” Rumsey said. “In consultation with public works and the DA (district attorney)’s office, we can do that if we have to, but right now we’re really trying to keep the focus on the city trying to work with people.”

LAUNCH ‘A SUCCESS’

City workers on Monday were done picking up trash around 11:30 a.m., shaving off about two hours from the time it took before pay-as-you-throw. They also made only one trip to the transfer station in Oakland. Previously, they may have taken two trips, Turner said.

The trash is taken from the Oakland station to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington.

Waterville public works employees make between 4,500 and 5,000 stops a week to pick up trash, including homes, apartment buildings with four or fewer units, schools, municipal offices, downtown trash receptacles and parks, according to Turner.

The city mailed 7,000 fliers and sample trash bags to homes and 1,200 came back as undeliverable, he said.

Turner estimated about 92 percent of people used the city bags Monday and complied with pay-as-you-throw.

He noted that variables may exist in that some residents are now contracting with private haulers to take their trash rather than participate in pay-as-you-throw, further reducing the city’s waste stream. Also, many people who brought trash to Waterville from other towns and placed them at the curb because trash pickup was previously free in the city will likely no longer do so and that would reduce the city’s tonnage more.

He cited as an example a very large mound of trash bags city workers regularly find near a trailer park off West River Road that clearly is not all Waterville trash. He said some people from Sidney left trash bags there.

The city pays Sullivan’s Disposal of Thorndike $72,000 a year to pick up recyclables curbside.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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