Recycle more, panel advises Solid waste task force issues report


LEWISTON – More recycling and stronger working relationships with Pine Tree Waste and Mid-Maine Waste Action Corporation are some of the recommendations of a seven-month report on Lewiston’s landfill and ongoing trash collections.

“The idea is, having the landfill available for Lewiston is a good asset now,” said Leo Larochelle, chairman of a task force studying Lewiston’s solid waste future.

The City Council convened the task force in April after a failed attempt to farm out management to a private firm.

The city released the report last week. City councilors are scheduled to discuss the findings later this spring.

The group of six residents found the landfill and city’s trash collections well run overall.

Highlights included cost of collections, which are on par with other municipalities, privatized collections and an agreement with Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp. MMWAC, owned and operated by Auburn and several other neighboring towns, takes Lewiston’s trash and incinerates it for a fee. All of the leftover ash is stored in Lewiston’s landfill, and MMWAC pays Lewiston for that right.

It also recommends incentives for recycling, something just being tried in other parts of the country.

“Sometimes the key to anything is finding the right incentives,” Larochelle said. The RecycleBank concept, being used now in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, uses special recycling bins with bar codes to track how much recycling homeowners leave out. Their recycling earns them rewards, in the form of gift certificates to local and national retailers.

“There are problems with RecycleBanking,” said Public Works Director Paul Boudreau. “It can be hard to keep track of in large multi-unit buildings and we could not do it alone. We’d have to do the system with Auburn – and maybe other communities in the region.”

It could pay off, however.

“The places where it’s being used, they claim recycling rates of 90 percent,” Boudreau said. The city had a recycling rate of 7 percent in 2006 – 921 tons of trash recycled versus 13,379 tons of trash sent to MMWAC.

The study finds Lewiston’s trash collection deal with Pine Tree Waste to be fine, and encourages working with Casella Waste Systems, Pine Tree’s parent company.

Lewiston tried to ink a deal with the company last year. It would let Casella bring in up to 300,000 tons of construction and demolition debris – concrete, wood, asphalt, pipes and metal conduit, including debris from out of state.

The deal would have meant $1.1 million in new revenues and savings for the city. The Maine Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Environmental Protection put a stop to the deal, fearing the company would start bringing in trash from out of state.

The report urges caution, saying any deals must exclude waste from outside of Lewiston, give the city better control of what goes in and do a better job of keeping the public informed.