AUGUSTA — City councilors declined a proposal to return curbside recycling pickup service to the city, and they also rejected a proposal to add an additional bin for the recycling drop-off program.

At-Large Councilor Dale McCormick proposed a revival of curbside recycling collection for residents in some form, but in an informal straw poll of her fellow councilors during a budget review session Thursday, no other councilors expressed support for including funding for the service in the city budget.

The council voted in December last year to eliminate the city’s curbside recycling pickup, which it had offered since 1991 but 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, but they no longer have the option of simply taking them to the curb for pickup, as they still can do with their rubbish.

McCormick said it would cost about $96,000 a year to return to the city’s previous system of public works crews picking up rubbish 40 weeks a year, and recycling 12 weeks a year, or once a month, and also modify the program to make it single-sort, meaning residents wouldn’t have to separate their recyclable materials from each other as they did under the previous system. She said the city probably will spend more than that trying to fix the current system so it works properly.

She said she has received numerous complaints from residents that when they go to drop off their recyclables in the only two collection bins that are available all weekend, at Augusta City Center and Buker Community Center, they are full so they can’t get rid of their materials. And she said others have complained that some elderly people and people without cars are unable to take their recyclables to the drop-off locations.

“I can tell it is not the will of the council to (fund curbside recycling pickup) now,” McCormick said. “I predict we will in the future. I think we’ll see a lot more trash and a lot less recycling, and if we don’t fix the bin situation, we’re going to have people who are unhappy.”

The December council vote replaced the 12 weeks of curbside recycling pickup with rubbish pickup, meaning residents’ trash now is picked up every week.

Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis said the city is noticeably cleaner now that there is rubbish pickup every week, and residents have thanked him for that change. He said he did not want to return to picking up rubbish only 40 weeks a year in order to return to recycling pickup for 12 weeks. He also said the city collected more recyclables in the drop-off program this year than it did last year in the curbside pickup program, which was offered simultaneously to the drop-off recycling program last year.

A new curbside single-stream recycling pickup program with pickup twice a month, in addition to keeping weekly rubbish collection, 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 they could place their recyclables in and leave 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 material 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.

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

Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti proposed adding a second recycling collection bin at Buker, to prevent the frequent occurrence of bins filling up on weekends. That proposal failed, in an informal straw poll, 3-4.

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 emptied and returned to the city.

At-Large Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau said he doesn’t favor adding money to the budget for another bin. He noted a private business on Mount Vernon Avenue, a redemption center, takes washed, sorted recyclable materials from the public at no charge, so residents can use that service to recycle and not cost the city any money.

At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander and Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant said they wanted to see how the recycling drop-off program works with the current number of bins before adding more.

The city started the single stream drop-off recycling program, in a partnership with ecomaine, last year. That’s when the city added drop-off containers at the Hatch Hill landfill, the Public Works Department site on North Street, and at Augusta City Center’s back parking lot. More recently a fourth container was added, outside the Buker Community Center, to provide residents with another site accessible seven days a week.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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