Selectmen consider pay-per-bag program

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BETHEL — After having a discussion about future alternatives to the town’s solid waste service, officials decided to look into the possibility of recommending a pay-per-bag trash system.

Because they are just beginning to explore the idea, selectmen said at their Monday night meeting that any proposal for change would not be ready for a town vote this year.

Selectman Dennis Doyon said the pay-per-bag system could result in savings for the town, as well as spur people to recycle more.

In a pay-per-bag system, the costs of trash service is shifted from taxpayers to users, who would buy bags that could cost anywhere from 50 cents to a couple of dollars. Supporters say this is a more equitable system, but others argue it could increase dumping in the backwoods of towns.

According to the Maine State Planning Office, 70 pay-per-bag programs affecting 140 communities have been adopted. More than 307,000 residents, or about 24.1 percent of the state’s population, live in communities with these programs.

Rockland adopted a pay-per-bag system this month. Cumberland, Falmouth and Portland are among the southern Maine communities that use pay-per-bag systems. Brunswick is also considering adopting such a system and replacing its curb-side pick-up, partially as a means to extend the life of its landfill.

Bethel selectmen said that a pay-per-bag system might also save the town the need to invest as much in capital improvements at the transfer station. Town Manager Scott Cole reported that a capital upgrade at the transfer station could cost between $50,000 and $200,000.

Selectman Reggie Brown mentioned at the meeting that he throws away many newspapers each week. “I’m the worst recycler in the world,” he said.

Doyon shot back, “With pay-per-bag, you might become the world’s best!”

Selectmen also discussed the problem with enforcing transfer station rules and not allowing dumping to occur by those without station stickers, especially by building contractors.

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