BANGOR, Maine — City leaders are working on a resolve that would direct municipal staff to come up with alternatives and potential wholesale changes to Bangor’s recycling and solid waste removal programs.
“Recycling is a program that’s never really had council commitment,” Councilor Susan Hawes said at a meeting Tuesday. “But we can’t afford not to recycle. It will come back to bite us sooner or later.”
Earlier this year, as city leaders agonized over the municipal budget, a proposal was made to eliminate curbside recycling to save money. The idea was widely criticized and eventually the city found budget cuts elsewhere, but it shone a spotlight on Bangor’s anemic recycling program.
Councilor Geoffrey Gratwick, one of the councilors most passionate about recycling, actually was willing to support suspending curbside recycling.
“What we have now is costly and not very effective,” he said at the time. “If this were a good program, I’d fight tooth and nail to protect it.”
According to Dana Wardwell, the city’s public works director, only about 15 percent of Bangor residents take advantage of curbside recycling, which all city councilors agreed has extremely low participation.
Gratwick has worked with the city’s recycling committee to research and develop possible changes to how Bangor deals with recycling and trash removal. Some ideas have included requiring residents to pay a small fee for trash bags, instituting what was known as single-stream recycling, or putting all recyclables together in one receptacle. Each idea has pros and cons.
So far, though, there hasn’t been much momentum because the council hasn’t taken a strong stand.
Councilor Hal Wheeler agreed with Hawes about a historical lack of commitment and directed staff to create a resolve on the issue that would set a firm timeline for identifying recommendations.
Two members of the city’s recycling committee told councilors they want to keep working to find suitable alternatives for Bangor. Monique Gautreau pointed out that 62 communities in Maine already have a bag fee system for trash, which has encouraged recycling significantly in those communities.
Councilors will vote on the resolve at their first regular meeting in October.