AUBURN — City staff say feedback so far has been relatively quiet over the decision to eliminate biennial bulky waste collection, but staffers have received a few hardship requests from residents unable to dispose of items.

The city is not even two weeks into its new-look program for 2023, which allows residents to dispose of their bulky waste year-round free of charge at the Maine Waste to Energy facility at 110 Goldwaithe Road. While the spring curbside collection has been a popular program for years, it has also presented challenges for city staff.

Asked this week about the response from the public, Public Works Director Denis D’Auteuil said most of the calls so far have been questions about the new program, or from people wanting to confirm that there would be no curbside collection this year.

Part of the concern from officials in eliminating the collection is that many people don’t have a way to dispose of bulky items. If not disposed of, they may create a fire hazard or blight.

D’Auteuil said his department will work with people “to better understand their hardship and then look for options.” He said so far, the requests have either opted to pay a private hauler to assist them — because the volume of waste was too much to haul themselves — or to work with family and friends to see if they can get help to haul the materials.

Stafffers have said residents disposing of material must ride along with whomever is helping them to show proof of residency.


Since the plan for 2023 was announced, officials have shared mixed feelings.

When it was first outlined during a council workshop in February, Councilor Dana Staples said it was “totally unacceptable.”

“I know there’s been problems in the past, but it’s one of the most popular programs that the city runs,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a riot if we get rid of it.”

City Manager Phil Crowell said it was about budget efficiencies heading into a difficult financial year. He said the city has been paying out “a considerable amount of money in workers’ compensation claims” related to the program on top of the costs to run it.

It also led to the department being overwhelmed for essentially an entire month while collections were taking place in neighborhoods, D’Auteuil said.

During a City Council meeting in March, D’Auteuil said there have been an average of two staff injuries during the spring cleanup over the past 10 years. There are six vacant positions at Public Works and any injuries could put an even greater strain on the department, he said.


Auburn Public Works employees Garrett Whelan, left, and Ryan Pratt toss debris into a bucket loader during the 2019 bulky waste pickup in Auburn. The city has decided to eliminate the spring collection, instead offering year-round disposal at Maine Waste to Energy on Goldwaithe Road. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal 2019 file photo

The 2021 spring cleanup cost the city more than $150,000, nearly $50,000 of which was bulky waste disposal, according to figures provided by D’Auteuil.

“Every two years, you’d see the city get littered with materials all over the streets,” he said. “That will no longer be the case, but we want folks to bring it to Maine Waste to Energy.”

Councilor Belinda Gerry said that while she understands Public Works is shorthanded, she believes the city should hold off a year. This spring was originally slated to feature the biennial cleanup after the program ran in 2021. She said she’s concerned that people unable to transport items will simply begin “hoarding.”

“It’s a double-edged sword,” she said.

Crowell argued that most people would rather have year-round availability for bulky waste disposal than a single week. He also believes most people will “be able to work out some way” to get their items to Maine Waste to Energy. After all, it got to their house in the first place, he said.

“You’re going to see more bulky waste disposed of year-round,” he said, adding that Maine Waste to Energy tracks the volume of how much is brought there throughout the year.

D’Auteuil said the city will track the amount of material being disposed of and assess the overall program changes over the next six months and report to the City Council.

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