At its February 16 meeting, the Sanford City Council unanimously approved two new contracts dealing with solid waste and recycling.
The first was a five-year extension of the contract with Casella Resource Solutions to pick up and dispose of our trash, and haul our recyclables to EcoMaine. A two-year or three-year extension had also been considered by the Solid Waste Subcommittee, but it was determined that the five-year extension was the best value. City Manager Steven Buck pointed out that we don’t have many other options, as Casella has bought up the competition and cornered the market.
Mr. Buck explained that the city looked into an automated system for picking up recycling, in which all Sanford households would have special recycling containers, and a truck would pick up and empty them automatically. The problem with this system is that it does not allow for inspection of the recyclables to ensure that they are not contaminated with non-recyclable materials.
In the past few years, contamination has become a major issue, resulting in China stopping importation of recyclables from America. This caused the markets for recyclables to plummet. EcoMaine now levies substantial financial penalties if recyclables are contaminated. Mr. Buck said that our agreement with Casella has their operators visually inspecting each container before they tip it into the truck. Because of this, Sanford has a very low contamination rate, keeping the cost down.
The second contract was a five-year renewal of the city’s deal with EcoMaine, to dispose of our recyclables. This includes increasing the cost of a sleeve of the Pay-As-You-Throw trash bags by one dollar, to $14.50. The price increase would take effect July 1.
Councilor Robert Stackpole, who chairs the Solid Waste Subcommittee, explained that the price increase was needed to minimize the effect on the property tax rate. He said that the PAYT bag system spreads the cost of dealing with the town’s solid waste more fairly among all Sanford citizens, not just property tax payers.
The City Council will need to amend a separate ordinance to officially increase the bag price. Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said that would be a good time to discuss the quality of the bags as well.
Mr. Buck noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has actually boosted demand for recycled paper and cardboard. As online shopping has skyrocketed, the market for cardboard shipping cartons, which include recycled material, has increased. Maine companies that make the cardboard have benefited.
By timing both contracts to expire in the same year, the city will then have the option to look elsewhere for hauling, disposal of trash and recycling. The City of Rochester, NH, was mentioned as a possibility.
The full City Council meeting can be viewed here. The trash/recycling discussion begins at 1:37:16.
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