AUBURN — Curbside recycling collections could end in July for one year as the city looks for ways to improve the program permanently beginning in 2011.

Councilors said they favored parking the city’s recycling trucks in the Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp.’s 110 Goldthwaite Road lot beginning July 2010. Residents who want to recycle their trash can bring cans, cardboard, glass and newspapers there after July 1.

But City Manager Glenn Aho said he expects a new curbside recycling program would begin a year later, in July 2011. That would likely be a single-sort program, letting residents fill one container with trash and recycling or weekly curbside collections.

“It would be one container and one trip — that’s what we want,” Aho said. “That would be more efficient.”

Aho said the city’s solid waste collection contract with Pine Tree Waste is scheduled to end in July 2011. The current recycling collection program is inefficient, and needs to be updated.

“But we have a year to figure out the permanent solution,” Aho said. “I’m looking for direction about what we should do for the next year, while we work out those details.”

The city offers free curbside recycling to every residence where one to seven families live. In 1998, the recycling rate was about 45 percent, but it has declined since then. It currently ranges between 5 and 20 percent, depending on the neighborhood.

The department would have to either add employees, increase overtime allowances by about $10,000 or reduce services next year to balance that budget. Aho said he budgeted $210,000 in the proposed 2010-11 fiscal year budget to cover recycling collections between July 2010 and June 2011. That would pay for curbside collections according to the current plan or for a private company to take over and provide single stream collections for one year. That would let residents dump all of their recyclable materials into a single bin. The city would pay a company to collect it. The recycler would process the recyclables and resell them, keeping the profits.

But councilors said they wanted to go further.

“The system we have is broken now,” Ward 5 Councilor Ray Berube said. “If you could park the recycling trucks in three different neighborhoods around the city, that would let people bring their recycling in themselves.”

Councilors finally agreed to park the three truck in the MMWAC’s Goldthwait Road lot.

“A few years ago, recycling paid,” Councilor Dan Herrick said. “It made cities a lot of money. But today, the biggest cost you have is driving the delivery trucks. If you get back any money from selling your recycling, you pay it right back out for the trucks to collect it.”

Aho said the changes will be built into the city’s fiscal year 2010-11 budget. Curbside collections will continue until current budget ends on June 30.

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