AUBURN — The city’s curbside recycling program will officially end June 28, and will move to a “drop-off only” model after officials axed funding for the program in the fiscal 2024 budget.

According to a city news release Wednesday, the last curbside collection, which has been done biweekly, will be June 28. Starting the same day, a single-sort recycling container will be available at the Auburn Public Works facility on Gracelawn Road.

Liz Allen, director of communications and community engagement, said the drop-off container will be available 24 hours a day near the resident sand shed. There will also be bins available for residents with compostable food waste, she said.

The recycling container will mean residents can continue to mix all recyclable items together. Accepted items include clean glass, No. 1-7 plastic, tin and aluminum cans, cardboard, newspapers and magazines, and mixed paper.

Compostable items include all food scraps, coffee grounds, filters and tea bags, dairy products, meat and bones, egg and seafood shells, fats, oils and salad dressing, paper bags and paper plates, napkins and paper towels, newspaper, and flowers and potting soil.

In early May, city councilors argued that Auburn’s ability to incinerate material at Maine Waste to Energy, which produces electricity, is more cost effective and arguably more sustainable than its recycling program, given the large amount of material collected that can’t be recycled and ends up in a landfill.


Cutting the program represented a savings of $227,000, though the city plans to use the funds to shift to an automated trash collection system next year as required by the city’s trash collection contractor.

City Manager Phil Crowell said the city has been paying $142 a ton for recycling, which he has said was a drastic increase from the start of the year. Officials said sending the same material to Maine Waste to Energy at 110 Goldthwaite Road in Auburn costs $42 per ton.

Following the council’s decision, some officials, as well as the city’s Sustainability Working Group, said not enough thought was put into the decision to abruptly stop the recycling program. Several members of the Sustainability Working Group also served on the former ad hoc Recycling Committee in 2019, which produced a report that sought to help Auburn improve recycling. Instead, the members say the recommendations were ignored.

Auburn continued to have a very low participation rate — about 7% of households.

Ralph Harder, a member of both groups, said last month that if a recycling program is “properly run,” its carbon footprint can be smaller than other methods of municipal solid waste disposal, including incineration in waste-to-energy plants. He also said the Sustainability Working Group had contacted administration multiple times in the last six months about the performance of the program and about involvement in future planning and received no response.

After administration recently reached out to the group for suggestions, the group responded with a statement that it was “too little, too late.”


“It appears to us that the council has made up its mind and would be unlikely to change a thing no matter what we said,” the letter to Crowell said. “So we see no point in finding the time to come up with another list for the council to ignore.”

The letter also said the group was told “disturbing information about how current recycling is handled which was very different” from what the former Recycling Committee was told during its tour with Casella, the city’s recycling contractor, in 2019.

Asked Wednesday, Crowell said the Sustainability Working Group is “a great group of citizens with incredible experience.”

“I look forward to working with them on other sustainability matters in the future,” he said.

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