AUBURN — The city plans to change the details of its recycling program yet again because bins at its drop-off location on Gracelawn Road have been left overflowing on weekends.

During a City Council meeting Monday, City Manager Phil Crowell said the program will now have certain hours of operation, and likely reduced hours on weekends due to issues with the drop-off system at the Public Works facility.

He said while the city has been working with recycling contractor Casella on the new-look program, the Casella facility is not open on weekends. However, that’s when most people have been bringing material to the drop-off containers, leading to full bins and complaints from residents that they are not able to drop material.

“There’s a lot of frustration with having no room to place recyclables,” he said.

Crowell said it’s also leading to issues like materials being left on the ground between bins or on top of the bins. People are also leaving non-recyclable material, he said.

Asked about the possibility of adding more containers, Crowell said Casella has three containers on site but adding more would come at the city’s expense.


Instead, the city will move them inside a fenced area at the Public Works facility and will come up with set times. He said weekends would likely be reduced to between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays.

The city shifted to the current drop-off only model starting July 1, after the City Council removed funding for the city’s curbside program, which was offered biweekly through Casella.

During the discussion Monday, Councilor Belinda Gerry said the city’s Sustainability and Natural Resources Working Group should be consulted on the issues with the program.

In response, Mayor Jason Levesque said Auburn “still has no proof” the material is being recycled.

Officials in favor of ending the curbside program have argued that its cheaper to incinerate material at Maine Waste-to-Energy at 110 Goldthwaite Road than to pay for a faltering and expensive recycling program that may be sending material to landfills anyway. However, those in favor of a curbside program, including members of the sustainability committee, said if a recycling program is properly run, it reduces the amount of material entering the waste stream.

A Casella official told the Sun Journal recently that “the narrative that recyclables are simply being landfilled, is false.”


Councilor Dana Staples said he’s had lots of people reach out to him regarding the current program, adding that “if we have a path to include recycling for 2025, I think we should keep that coming.”

He said even with some publicity around the shift to drop-off only, he knows some people are still just finding out about it.

“We’re going to have to keep pushing,” he said. “I hope we can come to a better solution for next year.”

Auburn resident Mara King, speaking during public comment, said she still has neighbors who are putting out their bins curbside.

“This community, this council has done a crap job of getting the information out,” she said. “It’s embarrassing.”

King said she’s been living in Auburn long enough to remember weekly curbside pickup. Then it shifted to biweekly. Then it went to drop-off only. Now it won’t be 24/7 access, she said.

“What I’m hearing is disincentives to recycling,” she said. “Every step in Auburn has made it more difficult for me to recycle.”

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