June 22, 2018
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Waste group proposes curbside organic recycling in Portland

By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — A local group is pushing for a slate of solid waste policy reforms, including curbside pickup of organic refuse and mandated recycling options at multiunit apartment buildings, that it claims will keep Maine’s largest city at the vanguard of ecofriendly practices and further reduce the amount of garbage it pays to dispose of.

The 10-person Solid Waste Task Force, co-chaired by City Councilors John Anton and Cheryl Leeman, has submitted to the larger City Council its 61-page report, developed over the past year and built upon what the task force describes as successful reforms promoted 12 years ago by its predecessor group.

“The goal of the task force was to be very focused on the achievable and the present,” Anton told his fellow councilors at their Wednesday night meeting.

In 1999, the city adopted recommendations by the Recycling Advisory Committee, also headed by Leeman. Those changes, which included the introduction of pay-per-bag trash disposal and curbside recycling pickup, have made a big impact over the years.

According to the task force’s 2011 report, residential recycling rates in Portland grew from 7 percent in 1998 to 33 percent in 2010, and the amount the city paid in tipping fees to dispose of nonrecyclable residential waste dropped from more than $2 million in 1998 to $900,000 last year.

That’s progress, task force members said, but the city can do better. The task force report seeks a continued increase in residential recycling by 2 percent annually in pursuit of a goal of 50 percent recycling by 2020.

“In 1998, the integrated approach to waste management recommended by the Recycling Advisory Committee was innovative,” the report reads, in part. “Now, more than 10 years later, technology and collection practices have changed. … The city of Portland should respond to these changes and re-establish its leadership position in the field of solid waste management.”

The new recommendations include:

• Providing residents with larger curbside recycling containers.

• Requiring the city’s 132 multifamily properties with at least 20 dwelling units — which are not eligible for city solid waste services — and smaller multifamily buildings that do not participate in the waste management programs to provide tenants with recycling programs comparable to the city’s.

• Looking into curbside pickup of residential and commercial organic waste, such as food or plant matter that can be composted.

• Adding a recycling container to each trash receptacle in city facilities and in public spaces by December of 2016.

• Restoring bulky waste pickup service, which was discontinued three years ago, for residents who don’t have transportation to bring large items such as furniture to Riverside Recycling Facility. The service should be fee-based, the task force claimed, in order to offset the costs of picking up the large items. The proposed fee is $7.50 per bulky ticket, and the size of the item to be picked up will determine the number of tickets needed. The restoration of the service is intended to curb illegal dumping of large items on streetcorners or other public places. “This is a critical component to allowing residents, particularly apartment dwellers, a tool to comply with the ordinance rather simply an enforcement component,” Anton said.

• Producing a “scorecard” annually to track the city’s progress implementing the recommendations.

Anton told his fellow councilors during Wednesday night’s meeting he plans to bring forth orders seeking to implement aspects of the task force recommendations at future meetings. Portions of the plan, if approved, are slated to be launched next spring.

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