WATERVILLE — The city has reduced its solid waste tonnage by 55 percent and saved $20,874 in disposal fees in the first six weeks of the new trash collection system, according to the company that manages the program.

Joshua Kolling-Perin, director of public engagement for Waste Zero, said the city’s target was to reduce the trash collected by 44 percent and save $15,800 during the first six weeks. Under the pay-as-you-throw program, the city has already exceeded those goals, he said.

WasteZero supplies retailers with purple trash bags, sold to residents in packages of eight 15-gallon bags for $10, and five 30-gallon bags, also for $10.

Residents who participate in the program place their trash in the bags at the curb and the city picks them up weekly. The city also hired Sullivan’s Disposal, of Thorndike, to pick up recyclables at the curb the first and third full weeks of the month on residents’ regular trash collection day.

“The reductions that have been experienced thus far are significantly beyond what we initially predicted,” said Mark Turner, the city’s public works director. “Overall, consistently positive results have been achieved on both waste reduction and recycling. The credit goes entirely to our residents, who have helped make this program an even greater success than was originally anticipated.”

But other residents have opted out of the program and hired private haulers to collect their trash at the curb.

Gregory Rabe, owner of Gregory’s Disposal, of Fairfield, said he has picked up 200 residential customers in Waterville since pay-as-you-throw started. Gregory’s sent out mailers to households several weeks ago saying the company was available for private hauling. Waterville has a population of about 16,000.

“It’s the same story every time,” he said of people who wanted private collection. “They’re really not happy with (pay-as-you-throw). We could easily pick up a few hundred more. We have a truck dedicated just for Waterville.”

Gregory’s, which picks up residential trash weekly at the curb on Fridays, has also picked up more customers who own duplexes and small apartment buildings in Waterville, Rabe said.

“We’ve had a big surge in that part of our business,” he said.

Customers have the option of using Gregory’s toter-type cans, which are square, brown, commercial-grade trash barrels with built-in covers, according to Rabe. While they are provided to customers as part of the service, they may opt to use their own trash barrels, he said.

ILLEGAL DUMPING

Since pay-as-you-throw was enacted in September, trash haulers collecting waste from their Dumpsters throughout the city are finding them more packed with trash. In many cases, the bins are overflowing onto the ground.

That’s because some are skirting the pay-as-you-throw program by illegally dumping their trash bags in privately maintained bins.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of businesses ask to have locks put on their Dumpsters,” said Mickey Wing, who co-owns Central Maine Disposal with his brother, Charlie. “That’s become a problem. We charge $25 to put locks on, but the businesses are doing it.”

Mickey Wing, whose business is based in Fairfield, said he predicted his Dumpsters in Waterville would be the target of illegal dumping as soon as he heard city the was going to go to pay-as-you-throw.

“A lot of people don’t have the money to pay for the bags,” he said.

Wing said he has not complained to the city about the illegal dumping — yet.

Pine Tree Waste on Airport Road also has had requests from businesses to place locks on their Dumpsters, according to an official there.

Some residents are reporting seeing trash illegally dumped around the city since pay-as-you-throw went into effect.

Pam Schoening of Burleigh Street said Friday that people have been throwing trash in a gully behind her home since pay-as-you-throw started. While the dumping occurred before that, now it has increased, she said.

She said a cleanup effort organized by Jibryne E. Karter III, a candidate for the Ward 6 City Council seat, removed a lot of the illegally dumped trash. Karter has been a vocal opponent of pay-as-you-throw.

Karter said Friday that about 30 volunteers removed trash from homes, rental properties and wooded areas behind not only Burleigh Street, but also Kennebec, Sherwin and Squire streets, as well as Canabas Avenue and Butler Court. The trash included diapers, broken toys, plastics, glass, paper, roof shingles, tires, furniture, bicycle parts, paper and siding.

He produced receipts from Pine Tree Waste that show volunteers collected and disposed of 2.26 tons of debris and litter from the effort, which cost about $325 and was funded with private donations. Returnable cans and bottles garnered from the cleanup were given to the Mid-Maine Homeless shelter, he said.

TRASH ASSISTANCE

Meanwhile, City Manager Michael Roy said people who can not afford to buy the purple trash bags may ask for free bags at the city’s Health and Welfare Department at City Hall or at the Greater Waterville Area Food Bank at Pleasant Street United Methodist Church.

The city’s health and welfare director, Linda Fossa, said there is a process people must complete to get the bags. First, they must make an appointment to come into the office and apply for general assistance, and if they qualify, they are given a voucher to buy purple trash bags. If they do not qualify for general assistance, the office can help them one time with bags, she said.

“We look at a situation on a case-by-case basis,” she said.

City Manager Michael Roy said that when the city mailed packets containing two sizes of bags to residents at the start of pay-as-you-throw, a few hundred were returned as undeliverable.

Those leftover packets were then distributed to the health and welfare office, as well as to the Greater Waterville Area Food Bank at the Pleasant Street United Methodist Church and the food bank at George J. Mitchell School.

Roy said when that supply runs out, there will be no more free purple trash bags to distribute.

“The city doesn’t have any plans at this point to replenish supplies,” he said. “However, a council decision could change that.”

Jennifer Johnson, president of the Parent Teacher Organization at the Mitchell school and a member of the Greater Waterville Area Food Bank’s board of directors, said a person must be pre-qualified to receive trash bags at the Waterville food bank. To become qualified, one must prove income and residency eligibility, and that process can be done at City Hall, Waterville Public Library or Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. At the Mitchell School, trash bags are available at the school for families who have students in the school district.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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