AUBURN — Before Auburn residents put out their recyclables, many check the calendar to see if it’s the right week.

After discovering it’s not, some haul their bottles, cardboard, plastics and paper back inside.

Others skip recycling and throw it all out.

The irregular recycling pickup is attributed as one reason why Auburn’s recycling rate is a dismal 8.5 percent.

By comparison, the statewide average is between 35 to 39 percent, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

In comparison, according to municipalities and EcoMaine, a nonprofit waste management company, Lewiston has a 23.6 percent recycling rate; Bridgton, 21.2 percent; Livermore Falls, 18.3 percent; Portland, 37.6 percent; and Windham, 41.6 percent. 

Environmentalist and Auburn business owner Jim Wellehan, whose wife serves on the city’s solid waste committee, said he and his wife recycle two or three times as much as they put in the trash. They compost.

But because recycling is picked up sometimes twice a month, sometimes three times a month, “people are not used to it,” he said. “When you look at people putting their recycling out, there are less people doing it.”

Auburn not having a proper recycling program “is foolish,” Wellehan said. “Auburn can do so much better.”

His business, Lamey-Wellehan shoe stores, brings its recyclables to Lewiston. “Lewiston is a well-run city,” he said.

Ward 3 City Councilor Mary LaFontaine agrees the city’s practice of recycling on the first and third weeks, or the second and fourth weeks, makes recycling more difficult for residents.

In her own home before she recycles, “I have to look at calendar,” LaFontaine said.

But, cutting recycling was a tough budget decision. There’s a cost to property tax bills to providing recycling pick-up every week.

“We had to balance the budget,” LaFontaine said. “We have to balance the needs of the entire community.”

The council has considered the pay-per-bag model, where residents must spend about $1 for a trash bag to throw out rubbish. That’s what is done in Windham, Portland and a growing number of communities.

Pay-per-bag would be a direct impact to residents, LaFontaine said, adding there’s a concern people might dispose of trash improperly on rural roads, as what happened recently in Greene.

Those interested can bring recyclables to the Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp. at 110 Goldthwaite Road, she said. “We have this conversation every year. There are no easy answers.”

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said changes are in the works.

The council hopes to resume weekly, single-stream curbside recycling pickup in July, 2015, if approved in the budget.

Auburn’s solid waste system “is not perfect, it’s not ideal,” LaBonte said. “It does not encourage growth in recycling.” 

He formed a mayor’s committee on solid waste, which recommended regular, weekly recycling pickup. That was endorsed by the council but didn’t make it into this year’s budget, which suffered significant cuts to hold down property taxes.

Councilors have given the direction that it be included in next year’s budget, LaBonte said.

Having a 8.5 percent recycling rate and partial program isn’t good for the city, the environment and economic development, he said.

The less trash burned or buried, the better, he said. “Auburn has a huge opportunity to encourage people to recycle.”

People who move to Auburn discover “we don’t have recycle bins. It’s find your own bins and figure out which weeks you recycle,” he said. Developers “read the newspapers. Some have asked me why Auburn was cutting recycling,” LaBonte said.

“Certain services folks expect,” he said.

Beginning Aug 4: Auburn’s recyclables picked up by Pine Tree

AUBURN — On Aug. 4, Pine Tree Waste, which now picks up Auburn’s trash, will begin picking up recyclables, said Dan Goyotte, the deputy director of Auburn Public Works.

Goyotte said nothing from the current status quo will change, but he wants residents to know that recyclables will be picked up in the same kind of trucks that pick up trash, but the material will be recycled, not burned.


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