In discussion this week, members of the Winslow Town Council were quick to reject the idea that adopting a pay-as-you-throw system for solid-waste disposal could serve as a revenue enhancement for the town.

Still, the council formed a three-member subcommittee to explore the possibility of adopting a system that would have residents pay for each bag of garbage they dispose of as a means to encourage recycling.

Serving on the subcommittee are Chairman Gerald Saint Amand, Councilman Raymond Caron and Councilman Ken Fletcher.

“The committee’s purpose isn’t to decide pay as you throw. It’s to explore the options,” said Councilman Steve Russell. “Pay as you throw may be one of those options to reduce the amount of waste we have to ship.”

Meanwhile, in nearby Benton, the Board of Selectmen sought its own means of encouraging residents to recycle more and reduce costly tipping fees charged to the town for solid-waste disposal.

With Selectman Antoine Morin saying the town is losing money on its current recycling program, the board is exploring options for adopting a single-stream recycling system, hearing a presentation from Lissa Bittermann, business development manager for ecomaine, during its meeting Monday night.

Ecomaine is a recycling heavy-waste disposal organization formed as a nonprofit by multiple municipalities in 1976 in reaction to a state law calling for the closure of privately owned landfills.

During the discussion in Winslow, Town Manager Michael Heavener, who posed the pay-as-you-throw question during discussion of the town’s upcoming budget talks for fiscal 2016, said pay as you throw would only be used as a means to facilitate recycling and improve the town’s recycling program.

He noted that Waterville’s pay-as-you-throw system cut solid-waste tonnage in half since its implementation in July.

“Unfortunately, pay as you throw is just an incentive for people to recycle,” he said. “I think if we’re really thinking about recycling, we have to at least give some consideration to pay as you throw.”

Heavener agreed with council members who were quick to say they could only support a pay-as-you-throw system if it were revenue-neutral. For Fletcher, that means corresponding property-tax reductions to offset any extra revenue garnered by such a program.

“If we just add on pay per throw without correspondingly reducing property taxes, the property taxpayers are going to end up paying twice,” he said, garnering applause from some residents at the meeting.

While Councilman Jerry Quirion proposed the council delay the subcommittee by six months to see how Waterville’s system works out, Russell said it could be as long as six months before the subcommittee comes back to the council with recommendations.

Saint Amand declined an offer from Patricia Ayer, who was elected last week to represent District 1 beginning in January, to serve on the subcommittee.

“We’ll discuss that later,” he said as legal counsel cautioned that placing four or more councilmen on the subcommittee would constitute a quorum and require public notice for all meetings.

In Benton, Bittermann advised the Benton board that municipalities that switch to single-stream recycling, on average, see a 3 percent-to-7 percent increase in recycling.

“You usually want to also take a look at other what we would call incentivizing tools, and those could be a mandatory recycling ordinance, the dirty word ‘pay as you throw,’ which is extremely effective in creating high recycling rates,” she said.

Currently, Benton and Clinton residents take their solid waste to the Clinton-Benton Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Station in Clinton, where they must sort their recyclables by hand. The towns cover the cost of disposing of nonrecyclables.

A single-stream system would allow residents to dump all of their recyclables into a single bin without sorting.

“The hope is that by taking out the complexity of it, you increase your recycling rate, which means less is going into the waste stream and the less that’s going to waste is less we have to pay in fees.”

With Bittermann slated to speak to the Clinton Board of Selectmen, Morin said they already have heard a proposal for a single-stream recycling program from Casella Waste Systems.

Morin said both Benton and Clinton probably would have to agree to the change. He estimated a decision would be made in three to six months.


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