CHINA — The board of selectmen on Monday unanimously authorized an agreement with a company to provide public outreach on a pay-as-you-throw solid waste system for the town in advance of a vote on the measure next March.

The proposal, by WasteZero, a national trash metering company, would require residents to purchase special garbage bags from the town to be used at the China transfer station. WasteZero produces the bags and runs pay-as-you-throw programs for about 800 towns and cities in the U.S.

Steve Lisauskas, the company’s vice president of municipal partnerships, told selectmen that on average, pay-as-you-throw programs result in a solid waste reduction of 44 percent and increases in recycling of between 75 and 100 percent. Based on those averages, China could realize a net financial impact of $163,700 in the first year, including the revenue from bag sales, reduction in tipping fees and transportation and additional recycling revenue. Over ten years, the town could see a financial benefit of more than $1.6 million, according to the company.

Moreover, the benefits of the program would be realized within a few months, Lisauskas said.

“These impacts are refreshingly fast,” he told selectmen.

WasteZero can tailor a system to meet any community, Lisauskas said. The company currently works in Waterville, which implemented a pay-as-you-throw system last year.

Selectmen in China are considering using the proceeds from bag sales to offer rebates to residents as an incentive to produce less trash. If the rebate returned to residents was equal to the amount a household using two bags a week spent per year, then a household that only used one bag a week would actually make money on their rebate, while a household that used three or more bags a week would have to spend more on bags than they received from the rebate.

WasteZero developed the rebate scheme for Sanford when it created a pay-as-you-throw program there, Lisauskas said. The way the system currently works, people who make the least trash are effectively providing a subsidy for the people who make the most, he said.

“What is less fair than the current situation where everyone cross subsidizes everyone and the environment suffers?” he asked.

Selectman Neil Farrington, a supporter of the pay-as-you-throw model, said the rebate could be applied to people’s tax bills as a way of providing property tax relief, but might also only be applied to people who received the homestead property tax rebate. The board intends to discuss the rebate program further.

But Selectwoman Irene Belanger said she had concerns with switching to a pay-as-you-throw system and was not prepared to support it at the current time. Among her concerns were that the bags WasteZero provided would break apart. She also said that in other communities where the system was put in place, like Waterville, illegal dumping had increased after people were asked to pay per bag.

People who asked her about the proposed pay-as-you-throw system were “irate” about it, Belanger said. Particularly upset were people who were diligent about recycling to help save money for the town and considered being asked to pay per bag “a slap in the face,” she said

Resident and landlord Albert Althenn said his property was already used as an illegal dumping ground for large items like mattresses, and he worried that people would start dumping regular household trash if China asked them to pay by the bag. Some of his tenants in Waterville were also unhappy with the system there, Althenn said.

Lisauskas said there was little evidence that illegal dumping increased significantly after putting a pay-as-you-throw system into place, but he would check with Waterville officials to see if they had witnessed the problems Belanger was referencing.

Under the terms of the contract, WasteZero would provide public outreach and education for the selectboard, including running two public meetings, in advance of a referendum in March in exchange for a $4,300 fee that would be refunded if the town decided to approve its pay-as-you-throw model.

Asked by a selectman how the company benefited from the agreement, Lisauskas was frank.

“We are a bag manufacturer, and this is a distribution method for us,” he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter:@PeteL_McGuire

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