AUGUSTA — Residents will be able to recycle a wider variety of items without sorting them from each other starting early next month.

City councilors voted Thursday to create a single-stream recycling pilot program for residents that would last at least six months. If the program is popular and successful, the city could look to offer similar expanded recycling options longer-term.

The city’s current limited curbside recycling and regular rubbish pickup will continue.

Residents who want to participate in the new single-stream recycling program can’t just leave their recyclables on the curb. They will have to drive to the Hatch Hill landfill, City Center or the John Charest Public Works Facility on North Street, where three Ecomaine recycling containers will be placed to collect unsorted recyclables.

However, residents will be able to recycle a much wider variety of items in the new program, items that otherwise might not be recycled at all and end up taking up space in the landfill.

The city now accepts recyclables including newspapers, magazines, steel cans, corrugated cardboard, clear glass containers and No. 2 clear plastic such as milk jugs. It doesn’t take noncorrugated cardboard such as cereal boxes or white milk jugs or other types of plastic.

The city now accepts sorted recyclables at Hatch Hill, and city crews also pick up some recyclables curbside, though Jones said residents’ use of that program has been limited and decreasing in recent years.

Ecomaine accepts a wider variety of recyclables, including plastic Nos. 1 through 7, most types of paper, clear or colored glass containers such as jars and bottles, cans, aluminum, cereal boxes, plastic grocery bags, phone books, books and wrapping paper.

Jones said it has been a city goal to expand recycling for many years. When the current system started in 1991, it was state-of-the-art, she said. She said the biggest challenge to expanding the program has been a lack of money to buy equipment.

Councilors authorized City Manager William Bridgeo to contract with Portland-based nonprofit waste and recyclables processor Ecomaine to accept recyclables from the city at no charge, but also with no payment for the six-month program.

Ecomaine has a largely automated process that sorts recyclable materials after they are collected. Residents still would need to separate their recyclables from their household rubbish, which still would go to Hatch Hill. Once sorted, the materials would be baled and sold to be reused to make new items.

While the city will not pay Ecomaine to process the materials, there will be a cost to the city — the cost of transporting the full containers to Ecomaine, work that the city will pay a contractor to do. Public Works Director Lesley Jones estimated that will cost about $17,000 for the six-month trial period.

About $10,000 of that $17,000 would cover the cost of transporting the recycling container from Hatch Hill to Ecomaine. The Hatch Hill container would be used by all users of the landfill, which takes waste and recyclables from several area communities, so the cost of hauling it wouldn’t come directly from the city budget. Instead, it would come from the Hatch Hill budget, which is funded by all users of Hatch Hill.

Jones said the costs associated with the Hatch Hill container are expected to be higher because it will get more use than those at Augusta City Center and the Public Works Department. The estimated $7,000 cost to transport the other two containers would come from the city’s rubbish budget, Jones said.

At-Large Councilor Dale McCormick said “there is a whole bunch of excitement” in the community about expanding the city’s recycling program.

“It’s a great idea,” she added. “I hope we’ll all send our recycling into the containers.”

Jones said converting the city’s curbside pickup program to one that could pick up single-stream recyclables would require a major investment by the city of about $200,000 to buy a new truck and equipment for Hatch Hill.

Bridgeo said the city’s trucks used to pick up those items now are past the point when they ought to be replaced, but he recommended delaying replacing them until councilors have a chance to discuss whether the city might want to have a single-stream recycling program long-term or consider other changes to recycling in Augusta.

Councilors said some residents they talked to were confused about the new program, including several who thought mistakenly that the city would pick up the recyclables curbside.

Bridgeo and Lissa Bittermann, Ecomaine’s business development manager, said Ecomaine will work with the city during the trial period to help educate residents about how to use the system and the benefits of recycling and would provide free brochures and other literature about the program, educational outreach in schools, and free access to Ecomaine’s environmental educator. The educational effort, Jones said, could start as soon as next week and would include inclusion of recycling information on the “message wheel” on cable television channel CTV 7, a Facebook and Twitter “campaign,” a kickoff event and multiple speaking presentations for residents.

Ecomaine is owned by a group of southern Maine municipalities and has 53 member municipalities that use some or all of its services.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.