AUGUSTA — The city’s current curbside recyclables collection program might be headed for the scrap heap.

However, it remains to be seen whether it would be replaced with a single-stream curbside pickup program or if the only remaining way for residents to recycle will be to take their items to drop-off locations.

A council subcommittee recommended to councilors Thursday that the city not spend $50,000 to put a new body on the city’s recycling truck needed to keep the current curbside recyclables collection program going past next spring.

Use of the service, which picks up a limited variety of residents’ sorted recyclable materials once a month, has dwindled since the city started a drop-off single-stream recycling program at three sites across the city. The bins are located at Augusta City Center, Augusta Public Works off North Street and the Hatch Hill landfill.

During this year, the curbside recycling program collected 120 tons at a cost of $879 per ton, compared to 160 tons at a cost of $113 a ton collected in the single-stream drop-off recycling program through ecomaine.

In single stream recycling, users don’t have to separate different types of recyclable materials from each other. They just need to separate it from their rubbish.

Since the city started the single stream program in a partnership with ecomaine in March, usage of the curbside collection program, which does not accept as wide a variety of recyclable items as the single stream program does, has dropped by 25 percent, according to City Councilor Patrick Paradis.

“I look at the numbers and think why, as a taxpayer, would I want to continue a program that’s very expensive when (the City Council) already voted and there is support for a program that is far less expensive,” Paradis said.

The city’s current collection system of 40 weeks of curbside rubbish pickup and 12 weeks of curbside pickup of limited types of sorted recyclables combined with the relatively new single-stream recyclables drop-off program costs $823,000 a year.

Under that system, the city’s recycling rate is 5.4 percent, collecting 280 tons of recyclables a year.

Replacing the curbside unsorted recycling collection with curbside single-stream recycling pickup would bring an additional cost of $100,000 a year. That addition is expected to increase the city’s recycling rate to 10 percent. It would bring the city’s overall rubbish and recycling budget up to about $920,000 a year.

It would also require a new, roughly $200,000 truck to collect the unsorted recyclables, compact them and transport them to ecomaine’s Portland processing facility.

The current year’s city budget is $54.9 million.

To continue offering the curbside limited recyclables collection, the city would need to spend about $50,000 to replace the body of the city’s existing recycling truck.

Lesley Jones, public works director, said the truck passed its most recent inspection in August, but just barely, and it’s not likely to pass another inspection.

A council subcommittee recommends that the city keep using the truck this year but not replace the rusty body, and thus not continue with the current collection program.

The committee also recommends councilors discuss what to do, long-term, for recycling as part of annual budget deliberations.

At-large Councilor Dale McCormick, chairwoman of the subcommittee, said she thinks the city should replace the current sorted curbside collection program with a new curbside single-stream recyclables collection program. But she said the city should discuss that as part of budget deliberations, which begin in April.

She said residents want to recycle but roughly 30 percent of them aren’t able to use the drop-off program because they are elderly or have a disability and can’t physically put their recyclables into the bin, or they don’t have transportation to get their items there.

She agreed fixing the old truck to keep the existing program going doesn’t make sense.

“We’re at a crossroads,” she said. “We have to decide which way to go, long term.”

Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau said he saw no reason to wait, that councilors should vote on whether to replace the current program with a curbside single sort recycling program, or just eliminate it and retain the current drop-off single sort program, right away, so city administrators could be able to make plans.

Councilors have expressed interest in offering residents more recycling options to encourage more people to recycle more items.

The committee also recommended adding an additional drop-off single-stream recycling bin for residents to use outside the Buker Community Center at an additional cost of about $8,400 a year to rent the container and have it hauled to ecomaine in Portland for processing when it is full.

City Manager William Bridgeo said adding another recyclables drop-off container at Buker would be “a good step forward” because it would give residents of that part of the city another drop-off location that could be accessible on weekends and at night.

Currently, he said, many of those residents probably use the bin at Augusta City Center, which McCormick said constituents have complained frequently fills up on weekends.

Paradis said he would sponsor an order, to be voted on at next week’s council meeting, proposing to add a new recycling container for single-stream drop-off at Buker Community Center, eliminate the current curbside unsorted recyclables collection program in April, and, in its place, expand rubbish collection in the city from the current 40 to 52 weeks.

McCormick said she also might place an order on next week’s agenda, proposing to adopt the recycling subcommittee’s recommendation to consider replacing the current curbside recyclables collection program with a single stream curbside recyclables collection program, as part of the council’s budget deliberations.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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