BREWER, Maine — The city is following in the footsteps of 140 or so other Maine communities — including Holden — that require residents to purchase trash bags to dispose of garbage.
Brewer’s pay-as-you-throw program goes into effect in January, with Jan. 3 being the first day trash collectors will restrict curbside pickup to the orange trash bags that residents purchase.
The orange pay-as-you-throw bags will be imprinted with the city’s logo and will cost $1.25 for a 15-gallon bag and $2 for a 33-gallon bag.
To help residents reduce the amount of trash that goes to the curb, a zero-sort recycling program was put into place six months ago, Ken Locke, Brewer’s environmental services director, said Sunday.
“About 70 percent of what used to be trash is zero-sort recycling,” he said.
The more residents recycle, the less goes into trash bags and must be sent to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington and to landfills, Locke said.
Unlike the old recycling program, “there is no sorting required” under zero-sort recycling, Finance Director Karen Fussell has said. “You don’t have to take labels off, you don’t have to take lids off. You don’t have to bundle newspapers.”
All those items and more go into one container, preferably a plastic trashcan marked with a recycling sticker, which is placed curbside on the same day as trash.
“It’s easy,” Fussell said.
Under zero-sort recycling, pizza boxes, plastic rotisserie chicken containers, cereal and frozen food boxes, and others can join the newspapers, milk jugs and steel cans that Mainers have recycled for decades.
“There ain’t a whole lot that can’t go into the zero-sort recycling” bin, Locke said.
Food waste, plastic bags (including grocery bags), foam or styrofoam packing materials, window glass, mirrors or light bulbs and household hazardous wastes such as paints or oils cannot be recycled, but basically everything else can, he said.
Some residents have been upset about the new pay-as-you-throw program because it’s an additional cost, Locke said, but when the dual recycling and trash program is explained to them, most understand why city officials made the change.
“There have been a few irate about it,” he said.
When the pay-as-you-throw program starts in three weeks, recycling pickups also will double, Locke said.
“We’re going to pick up zero-sort recycling every other week starting Jan. 3,” he said. “They need to put their zero-sort out on the same day as their trash pickup every other week.”
Locke also suggested that residents place their recycling on one side of the driveway and their trash on the other side.
The orange pay-as-you-throw bags are now available at the Hannaford grocery store, Lowe’s, and the Save-A-Lot store and Big Apple on South Main Street, and more locations soon will be added to the list, he said.
“We’re going to have 10 or 12 stores with bags,” he said. “It will be easy for [residents] to find them. They pretty much will be scattered all over the city.”
The orange trash bags eventually will be available at Tozier’s Market, Rite Aid, Walgreen’s, Aubuchon Hardware, the Big Apple on Wilson Street, Leadbetter’s and the Wal-Mart Supercenter, Locke said.
Residents who have questions about whether an item can be recycled may call Ken Locke or Public Works at 989-7800. Those who want more information about zero-sort recycling and the pay-as-you-throw trash program may visit the city’s website, brewerme.org.