PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Several Aroostook County towns are set to participate in a new “pay as you throw” trash program that city officials believe will cut taxpayer expenses and encourage more residents to recycle.
City councilors agreed to institute the program last December. It will go into effect on March 7, Dana Fowler, solid waste director for the city, said Wednesday. The first collection dates will be March 8, 9 and 10.
Under the plan, the city will contract with two haulers — Gil’s Sanitation and Star City Sanitation — for curbside removal of residential garbage and recyclable material. City Manager Jim Bennett suggested the program late last year to prevent a future increase in property taxes and to extend the life of the landfill.
Under the unit-based pricing system, residents pay based on how much they throw away. The less you throw away, the less you pay. Residents would be charged $3.05 per 30-gallon bag and $1.45 per 10-gallon bag for each bag at curbside, with recycled items removed for free. Bags will be sold at local businesses and must be used by everyone who puts trash at the curb.
Fowler said that the program will save money in the long run and extend the life of the landfill.
Participating in the program is recommended, but not required. Those who don’t want to take part can either contract with a licensed waste hauler of their choice or haul their own trash.
There is no limit to how many bags residents may place for curbside pickup, but they must use the proper bag. Haulers will collect only trash in the proper bags.
Presque Isle is not the only community taking part in the program, according to Fowler. Castle Hill, Mapleton, Chapman, Washburn and Wade also are taking part. The town of Perham is holding a special town meeting on Thursday night to decide whether to take part.
“We are hoping this is going to create a huge increase in recycling,” Fowler said Wednesday. “We also want to extend the life of the landfill. The longer it is open, the more time we have to put aside money for its eventual expansion or closure.”
Recycling is a way to reduce costs under the program. Residents can recycle a number of products, including types of plastic, cardboard, magazines and newspapers, in special bags, which will be provided at no cost. Recycling at curbside with those bags is free.
Fowler said that residents will get mailings next week with information about the program, as well as a sample of the bags available.
He said that most of the residents are on board with the program.
“I think most people are happy to see this taking place,” he said. “We have had a lot of interest in recycling since we’ve announced its establishment. People have been wanting to get ready for it.”
At this point, it costs $264 per year for curbside collection by a waste hauler. City officials said that it could have increased to as high as $420 a year if changes had not been made. Under the new program, city officials said that throwing away two 10-gallon bags per week will cost $151 per year and save a resident $113 annu-ally. Without pay as you throw, they said, property taxes would have increased by 0.6 mills to pay for the loan made to pay for the recently completed landfill expansion.
That would have meant a $60 increase in property tax on a $100,000 home. Because the new program has been implemented, the solid waste budget decreased.