CHINA — China voters will decide on whether to start a pay-per-bag trash program as the Board of Selectmen on Monday opted to put the issue on the ballot in March.

China sends its solid waste to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company in Orrington and is charged by the ton, but its contract with PERC is set to expire in 2018. The town has been looking for a more affordable option to dispose of solid waste when the contract ends. PERC has said rates for member towns will go up in 2018, as many towns plan to find other disposal options and the company’s electric energy agreements expire.

Town Manager Dan L’Heureux said the proposed pay-per-bag program would provide incentive to residents to recycle more to reduce the amount of solid waste for which the town pays disposal fees. He said residents could benefit from a rebate program and also a reduction in the town budget if less is spent on tipping fees and transportation costs.

Selectman Neil Farrington said the point of the program is to get more people recycling, and then residents wouldn’t need to spend as much on trash bags while the town benefits from spending less on disposing of trash.

“This is a little way to give some tax relief,” Farrington said.

Selectman Amber McAllister said educating residents will be key so they understand how the program works and how they can benefit.

L’Heureux said the cost of a trash bag is $2, but residents could get money back through the rebate program. As an example, he said if three families combined spend $624 annually on trash bags, each could get $208 back through the rebate program. Residents will still bring trash to the transfer station, if a pay per bag program starts.

A 2014 report estimated that China sent 1,300 tons of waste to the PERC facility. If the town went with a pay-per-bag program, it could save the town upwards of $140,000, according to the report, and reduce the mil rate by 0.47 percent.

Selectman Irene Belanger said once China’s contract with PERC expires, continuing to use PERC will cost more money.

China is one of 187 towns that send their solid waste to the PERC. The Municipal Review Committee, which represents the 187 towns, has encouraged towns to contract with Fiberight, a company that converts trash into biofuels and that is planning to build a plant in Hampden.

L’Heureux said the town had to bring a specified amount of solid waste to PERC, but the new Fiberight facility won’t require a minimum amount.

L’Heureux said draft contracts for the new Fiberight facility will be sent to the 187 towns late in the fall and a decision on whether to stay with PERC or move to the new company will be made in 2016.

“Those decisions are going to have to be made the beginning of next year,” he said, so construction can start at Fiberight.


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