Rollie and Joan Heckethorn drop off their recycling Tuesday at the Auburn Public Works drop-off containers on Gracelawn Road in Auburn. The city recently added a fourth container to ease the issue of overflowing containers. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — The City Council unanimously supported the creation of a new recycling program Monday, just a few months after ending its previous biweekly curbside collection.

Pitched by Mayor Jason Levesque last week, it would roll out a weekly curbside pickup in designated areas and compare the results to data from the city’s drop-off site at Auburn Public Works on Gracelawn Road.

Officials would then decide whether to fund a full curbside program during next year’s budget talks.

Despite criticism of its drop-off-only system since June, city officials have defended the decision to seek changes to its struggling program and say the pilot program will allow Auburn to “make a decision based on data.”

Officials initially supported ending its program due to questions about what materials were actually being recycled, as well as the cost to pay its recycling contractor Casella versus disposing of material at Maine Waste to Energy, where it is incinerated.

Levesque has said the new agreement with Casella would also include renewed communication on what materials should be included in residents’ recycling bins.


Councilor Dana Staples, who took part in a city tour and meeting with Casella officials, said Monday that he has “high hopes” for the program.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said, adding that Casella is “committed to the education piece.”

Asked for further details on where the pilot program would conduct curbside pickups, City Manager Phil Crowell said that is still being worked out with Casella. He said he’s not sure yet how far the city’s funds — some $210,000 — that was removed from the initial recycling budget will go under the new agreement with Casella.

Meanwhile, he said the city has added a fourth container at the drop-0ff site. He said that has seemed to resolve the issue of overflowing containers on weekends. He also added that with the improved contamination rates at the drop-off location, the city believes it is getting closer to the amount of monthly material it had collected in its previous curbside program.

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