- The City Council of Portland, Maine is exploring options for updating its waste collection infrastructure while maintaining a pay-as-you-throw system.
- Under one popular proposal, residents would still purchase special bags for refuse, but get new lidded recycling carts to replace the current open bin system. The city would also purchase three semi-automated trucks to collect the carts and the whole set-up would cost an estimated $1.07 million.
- Other ideas included using carts for refuse and recyclables or issuing a request for proposals to see what a private collection system would cost.
Though Portland's diversion rate has increased to 36% since the city adopted single-stream recycling that is still below the state goal of 50%.
A recent study found that the current system of lidless recycling bins may be part of the problem. On average, 15% of bins were overflowing each week - contributing to litter conditions - and 26% of residents used additional containers for curbside collection. Yet as city officials have noted a cart system is more expensive. The current 18-gallon bins cost $10, whereas a standard 64-gallon cart can cost $50.
Another challenge with the carts is that automated trucks may not be able to fit down some of Portland's more narrow streets, especially during winter months. A recent investigation found that a former solid waste manager had allowed employees to mix refuse and recyclables on these streets in the past.
City officials aim to have a plan finalized in time for next year's budget.