Landfill study group eager for one-box recycling system

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LEWISTON – Local trash-haulers may be close to starting a recycling rewards program.

Robert Reed, chairman of the city’s Solid Waste Task Force, said Casella Waste System officials claim they have most of what they need to start a recycle banking program in Maine.

“We studied it a year ago and we were very excited about it,” Reed said. “We really thought it was at least four years away. But the folks from Casella said they could get it up and running pretty quickly.”

The recycle banking program is one key to proposed changes at the Lewiston landfill. Councilors received an outline of a new management agreement last month for the city’s sanitary landfill and handed it off to Reed and the task force for review.

Part of the agreement requires Casella to increase the city’s recycling rate by doubling it within four years. Reed’s group met with Casella officials Monday to ask how they would achieve the goal.

“I don’t see how they could double Lewiston’s rate, but it makes sense if they offer incentives,” Reed said.

The task force was created last fall by the City Council to study the future of the municipal landfill. The group’s work took it to Ontario, N.Y., and that city’s RecycleBank program.

Residents there can leave one big container of recycled material curbside. They don’t need to sort their recyclables – that’s done at a special single-stream facility. A bar code on the container is scanned and the container is weighed when it’s collected. Recyclers get bonuses, in the form of gift certificates to local merchants. The more they recycle, the bigger the bonus.

Company officials told Reed they have a single-stream facility in Auburn, Mass., but are hoping to build another in Scarborough.

“Then it’s a matter of getting the special truck and the special containers in everyone’s homes,” he said. “That could end up being one of the most expensive parts.”

Single-stream recycling likely won’t increase the rate enough to meet Casella’s goal, Reed said. “But when you give people an incentive, things change. That’s what they’re counting on.”

The task force is expected to report its findings to the City Council on Tuesday. If the task force and councilors approve, the Casella agreement likely would go before voters in November. It must also be approved by the state Attorney General’s Office or the state Legislature.

This is the city’s second attempt at a management agreement at the landfill. Councilors approved an agreement with Casella in 2005 that would have hired the company to manage the landfill. State environmental officials put a halt to that proposal last year, fearing it would bring out-of-state garbage into Lewiston’s landfill.

In addition to boosting recycling and starting a single-stream program, the new agreement would have Casella pay the city up to $2.5 million the first year, plus pay a minimum of $800,000 per year in monitoring and host fees. Casella would also take over the KTI Biofuels incineration facility off of Plourde Parkway and convert it into a sorting facility for construction and demolition debris within four years.

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