Lewiston will likely shift to an automated trash collection system in 2024, where each household is given specific carts for trash and recycling. City of Lewiston

LEWISTON — The city will likely move to an automated trash collection system in 2024, a change that city staff said is needed for multiple reasons, including problems with “overflowing trash.”

The system, which is now used widely in other communities, gives each household specific carts for trash and recycling. During pickup times, the carts are placed on a truck and emptied by an automated system.

Staff said Lewiston’s current contract with Casella Waste Systems for manual pickup expires next year, and with prices rising, the city could lock into a new contract for the automated service before prices increase further.

Elected officials generally supported the move during a City Council workshop Tuesday. At the meeting, Public Works Director Mary Ann Brenchick said that while the change would come with the capital cost of the carts, it could also “improve the image of the city” and reduce waste.

The current system allows households to place trash bags by the curb and recyclables in a lidless container, often resulting in loose trash and debris on the streets. Crows are often seen pecking away at loose bags, and city staff has long struggled with compliance with its waste ordinance.

Brenchick said the overarching goal of moving to a different system is to improve the image of the city.


“Overflowing trash is not the image we want,” she said, adding that the city also has a goal of “reducing the waste we have through recycling.”

She said the cost of trash collection has been steadily increasing — this year it is $856,000 for collection only — and was told that Casella will no longer bid on manual pickup contracts going forward.

With Casella operating a recycling facility in Lewiston, the city pays nothing for sending its recycling material there, Brenchick said, meaning it should be an incentive to recycle more. Lewiston and Auburn have historically held some of the worst recycling rates in Maine.

“It is to our advantage to get people to recycle,” she said. “It’s free.”

On the other hand, the city pays $81 a ton to send trash to the incinerator at Maine Waste-to-Energy in Auburn. The resulting ash then ends up in Lewiston’s landfill.

Brenchick told officials Tuesday that the contract expiration presents an “opportunity for change.” The automated system is more efficient and safer, she said. She did not provide a cost breakdown of a potential contract, but officials said they would be discussing a new contract in the coming weeks.


Municipalities using the automated system include South Portland, Bangor, Biddeford, Saco and Scarborough, and others are considering it. Portland uses a hybrid system with pay-as-you-throw trash bags and automated recycling.

Brenchick also asked officials to consider what’s known as a “solid waste user fee,” similar to a utility fee like stormwater.

Councilor Rick LaChapelle said the council should consider the idea, but others, like Councilor Bob McCarthy, said it would be “nickel and diming taxpayers.”

Councilor Scott Harriman said the city should also consider more bulky waste pickups as a way to help residents who don’t have a way to get to the landfill. In 2019, a “trash amnesty” event in downtown Lewiston yielded some 63,000 pounds of bulky waste.

According to Brenchick, the city’s Recycling Committee will conduct a survey of landlords related to waste questions, and early next year, Bates College students will conduct a residential survey.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.