AUBURN — Curbside recycling collections will likely cost the city more, whether weekly service returns or not, according to a committee report.

City councilors will host a public hearing Feb. 3 to find out what kind of recycling service residents want.

“They just want people to come in and share pros and cons and any thoughts they may have on solid waste and recycling,” City Manager Clinton Deschene said.

Councilors reviewed a study and recommendations by the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee at their Jan. 21 meeting. That group is recommending the city create an automated collection program for trash and recycling.

“We have to get right on this for the budget and get it dealt with sooner rather than later so we want to get the public hearing part,” Deschene said. “We’re going to start meeting with vendors and providers and we’ll build that into the budget.”

The city currently picks up solid waste curbside weekly. Recycling is collected two times each month. The city started the twice-monthly program in 2011, with less frequent collections meant to save money.

According to the city budget, Auburn paid $695,770 to collect solid waste and dispose of it in 2011-12 and $647,953 in 2012-13.

According to the group’s report, the city would have to replace its recycling truck this year, pushing up costs to the program.

Instead, the group is recommending a plan similar to one presented by Casella Solid Waste subsidiary Pine Tree Waste last April. Under that system, the company would provide two heavy, lidded wheel carts — one for recycling and another for traditional household solid waste.

A single, automated truck would stop at each address, with an electronic arm that picks up and empties each cart, with a radio-readable computer chip tracking how much waste residents dump. Residents would not need to sort their recycling, but would put everything — glass, paper, cardboard and plastic — into the one recycling cart.

Auburn currently has an 8.5 percent recycling rate with the twice-monthly collection program. The study suggests that rate could increase to 25 percent under the automated program. That would save the city money in fees it pays to dump at the Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp. incinerator.

According to the study, the current program would cost about $9.7 million over the next 10 years. The automated program would cost between $7.9 million and $8.7 million, according to the report.

“Councilors support the recommendation from the committee, but they really want public input and feedback,” Deschene said.

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