WINSLOW — Town officials are trying to raise awareness about a recycling program that they hoped would lower municipal waste costs, but so far it hasn’t attracted a significant number of new recyclers.

Councilors voted unanimously to approve a six-month pilot program at a June Town Council meeting that would switch recycling to a single-sort stream and offer more drop-off locations. The town’s municipal waste committee hoped to capture 10 to 15 percent more of the town’s waste stream, 40 percent of which is believed to be recyclable, but so far the tonnage numbers haven’t changed significantly.

Town Manager Michael Heavener pointed to a survey from 2015 that signaled support for recycling, especially curbside, and opposition to a pay-per-bag program that prompted the committee to start pursuing other options.

The committee decided to keep recycling drop-offs at the Winslow Public Library, as there was concern that putting the dumpsters in more remote areas would make them more susceptible to illegal dumping. There are now four dumpsters at the library for single-sort recycling, meaning all recyclables can be placed together in the dumpster, and four dumpsters specifically for cardboard.

Prior to the new program, recyclables had to be sorted into two compartmentalized trailers at the library.

One woman kept eight containers at her home to sort her recyclables, according to Heavener.

With the increased ease of the new program, the town and committee hoped that the amount of trash that the Public Works Department picked up would decrease. But the town is unable to weigh the amount of recyclables it is getting, instead relying on how much solid waste it’s sending out. Those numbers show that there has been little change, and, anecdotally, Heavener said that most recyclers seem to be regulars.

“Everyone I’ve talked with has said they used to come here when the trailers were here,” he said, and then would take unaccepted recyclables to other towns. Now Winslow accepts most everyday recyclables.

Paul Fongemie, the public works director, said he doesn’t think the numbers will tip unless the town starts picking up recycling curbside or enacts a penalty, like nearby Waterville.

“I’m not advocating for it, but it’s just a reality,” he said.

The committee is now approaching some major decisions, as it faces the end of a contract with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., a waste-to-energy facility in Orrington, in April 2018.

The cost to send trash to PERC is $97 per ton after tipping fees, rebates and transportation are accounted for. Winslow will start sending its trash to the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock with its own trucks, bypassing a transportation fee but keeping a tipping fee of $65 per ton for solid waste and $55 per ton for recyclables.

While the cost is lower, the town wants to divert as much trash as possible from the landfill for environmental and economic reasons.

“If people participated in recycling, it would certainly help us keep waste costs down,” Heavener said.

The public works department also has to purchase a new garbage truck in the coming months, which is something it’s been putting off for years, Fongemie said.

What kind of truck the department buys rests largely on the success of the recycling program.

“If we can’t increase the recycling rates to a desirable level, the split truck will not work for us,” Heavener said, referring to a type of garbage collection truck that is split and can hold both trash and recyclables. The split truck would force the department to make two trips to Norridgewock each day, which wouldn’t be worth it to the town if it isn’t collecting significantly more recyclables.

Right now, Winslow produces about 12 tons of trash per day. Residents would have to cut that by about half through recycling to make the split truck investment work, Heavener said.

If things don’t change, the committee will keep recycling and trash options the same. It is not considering a pay-per-bag system at this time, he said.

They are looking into other potential options, like picking up trash and recycling on alternate weeks. Fongemie said one of his foremen worked on that system at his previous job in Saint-Zacharie, Quebec, Canada.

“I’d like to try curbside every other week,” he said, which would allow the department to get an automated collection truck but without the pressure of increasing recyclables to account for two daily trips to Norridgewock.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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