AUGUSTA — City councilors plan to revisit curbside recycling Thursday with the potential of returning the service and upgrading it so residents wouldn’t have to sort their recyclables.

A majority of councilors voted in December last year to eliminate the city’s curbside recycling pickup, the use of which had dropped off dramatically since the city began offering drop-off single-stream recycling. Residents now can use one of four locations in Augusta to drop off recyclables rather than drag them to the curb for pickup.

As part of their review of the proposed city budget for next year, councilors on Thursday are scheduled to discuss the pros, cons and costs of bringing back a recycling program, at the request of at-large Councilor Dale McCormick.

A new curbside single-stream recycling pickup program with pickup twice a month would cost about $279,000 a year, according to projections by Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, and Lesley Jones, public works director. That does not include the cost of the city buying bins for residents into which they could place their recyclables and leave them curbside to be picked up by city crews.

St. Pierre said those bins should have lids, to keep paper and other recyclables from blowing out and creating a litter problem, and to keep the materials dry if it rains. He cited a study by a University of Southern Maine professor that indicated Portland’s uncovered recycling bins were increasing the amount of litter on that city’s streets. He said the cost of buying such bins for residents’ use has not been estimated yet.

When the curbside recycling pickup program halted earlier this month, taking its place was an expansion of city rubbish pickup, from the previous 40 weeks to a full 52 weeks a year.

The cost of the current rubbish pickup program, combined with the additional $279,000 it is projected to cost to add bi-weekly curbside recycling pickup, would be $1.1 million a year.

It would be expected to increase the city’s recycling rate to 15 percent, from the previous 5.4 percent.

St. Pierre said Tuesday the city also is awaiting an estimate, which he expects to have by Thursday’s council meeting, of the cost to hire a private hauler to pick up curbside single-stream recycling once a month.

Resident Lynn Smith said she would like to see the city return to offering curbside recycling pickup, but said she understands the question of whether to fund it must be weighed against other priorities.

She said eliminating it was a step backward, and the city should have offered curbside single-stream recycling pickup last year when it first switched to single-stream recycling. That’s when the city added drop-off containers at the Hatch Hill landfill, the Public Works Department site on North Street, Augusta City Center’s back parking lot and, more recently, outside the Buker Community Center.

Smith said if councilors don’t bring curbside recycling back, she hopes the city at least will consider adding more recycling drop-off containers. She would also like those containers, which have openings only near the top, to be easier for elderly people and others who can have a hard time depositing recyclables into the bins.

“The biggest complaint I hear is the bins are full when you go to drop off your recyclables,” she said. “If they don’t re-institute (curbside recycling pickup), I hope they at least get some more containers.”

St. Pierre said the cost of adding another recycling collection container would be about $11,600 a year, including the cost of renting the bin itself, and of transporting it to ecomaine in Portland to be dumped out and returned to the city.

He said an additional container could be placed at a new location, or could be added at one of the four existing drop-off spots so a second bin would be there when the first bin fills up.

Jones has said it is inefficient to transport bins to ecomaine before they are full, because the city pays the hauler for each trip, so there will be times when the bins fill up. And if they fill up on the weekend, the bins might not be emptied until the following week.

Also as part of their budget review, the council is scheduled to review the proposed budgets for community services, finance and administration.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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