Augusta considering eliminating two of four recycling bins used by residents

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AUGUSTA — City officials recommend getting rid of the only two drop-off locations where residents can bring their recyclables at night and all seven days of the week, because too many people are putting nonrecyclables in the bins or leaving their discarded items around the containers when they’re full.

The proposal from the city staff would get rid of two of the city’s four single-sort recycling containers where residents can drop off their recyclable materials — the two outside Augusta City Center and the Augusta Police Department. That still would leave two locations where residents could drop off their unsorted recyclables — at the Hatch Hill landfill and the John Charest Public Works Facility, off North Street.

The remaining two locations are monitored by city workers and thus haven’t had nearly the amount of contamination or other problems as the two locations that aren’t monitored directly. But they’re available for use only when the two facilities are open, which is generally during business hours on weekdays, other than Saturday hours at Hatch Hill. Hatch Hill is normally open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Public Works Department is normally open to the public 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Three city councilors agreed Thursday to sponsor a proposal from At-large Councilor Corey Wilson to eliminate the two bins at City Center and the Police Department, and to make it a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of $500, for anyone not a resident of Augusta to place items in the remaining two bins, or any residents knowingly putting nonrecyclable items into those bins.

The change was recommended by Public Works Director Lesley Jones and City Manager William Bridgeo.

“I’ve recommended to council we focus our recycling efforts at Hatch Hill and public works,” City Manager William Bridgeo said. “The inconvenience for people will be they can’t come on Sundays, or at night.”

The two locations recommended for elimination are accessible anytime of day or night, seven days a week. That, combined with the fact that no one watching them on a regular basis, has contributed to the problems of contamination of the recycling bins by people putting nonrecyclable items into them, and people, when the bins are full, leaving their recycling items next to them, where they can and have blown away and littered parking lots, surrounding areas and the Kennebec River, according to Bridgeo. Officials also said people who aren’t residents of Augusta have been using the bins.

“It’s the lack of supervision. There’s a clear difference between what happens at Hatch Hill and public works and at City Center and the Police Department,” Jones said. “We thought we had the answer when we moved the one from Buker to the Police Department. But now we get calls from police saying there’s stuff all over the place there.”

The city moved a collection bin that previously was outside Buker Community Center to just outside the police station in hopes that it being next to police headquarters would discourage people from misusing the bin by placing nonrecyclable items into it.

But Bridgeo and Jones said people still have been putting nonrecyclables, including household trash and plastic bags, into the bin even after it was moved to the police station. At least one man was even summonsed on a charge of theft of services in September after, police allege, he refused to remove nonrecyclable items he had placed in the bin.

The city started the current single-sort recycling program, in which users don’t have to separate their various types of recyclables, such as paper, glass and plastic, from each other, only from their nonrecyclable trash, in 2015.

The city’s contract with ecomaine, which has a recyclables sorting facility in Portland where recyclables collected in Augusta are sent, does not charge the city to accept its recyclables, leaving the city’s cost of getting recyclables there only the cost of trucking the materials.

However, ecomaine does charge municipalities that send contaminated loads to it, with the fines increasing based upon how contaminated each load of recyclables might be. Numerous loads from Augusta have been contaminated and caused ecomaine to fine the city.

Bridgeo said if councilors decide to get rid of the two troublesome bins, he’d recommend waiting until February to make the change, after the holidays, and placing signs to notify residents using the bins that could be taken away.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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