Pay-per-bag: No way to improve recycling

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Approximately 30 people attended an informational meeting at the Bridgton Municipal Complex Tuesday night, with most telling the Bridgton Board of Selectmen they would not want to see the pay-per-bag system of recycling enacted, for several different reasons.

The pay-per-bag recycling system is being proposed by the Recycling Committee, after two full years of the committee investigating other ways to improve recycling efforts, in order to reduce the amounts and cost of solid waste disposal. The Committee’s goal is to achieve an additional 325 tons of recycling for a projected savings of $69,000.

It costs the Town of Bridgton $158 per ton in tipping fees for solid waste disposal at ecomaine, plus a $213 hauling cost per trip. Bridgton Transfer Station Manager Bob Fitzcharles, who is a member of the town’s Recycling Committee, said each solid waste load to ecomaine contains eight to nine tons.

For over two and one-half hours, individuals walked to the microphone and expressed their opinions as to why they were in favor of or opposed to the pay-per-bag system of recycling that would require paying for bags — 50 cents for small-sized ones and a dollar for large.

The town’s recycling rate has leveled off at just under 22% (21.8%), with the state’s recycling goal for Bridgton to recycle set at 50% of its waste stream.

No decision was made March 20, with selectmen saying they will discuss at an upcoming board meeting whether or not to forward the Recycling Committee’s recommendation to enact pay-per-bag recycling to voters at the June annual town meeting. Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione Sr. said board members want to have a chance to digest all of the comments they heard Tuesday night before rendering their decision.

Recycling Committee Co-chairman Mahlon Johnson, who has served for seven years as Bridgton’s representative on the ecomaine Board of Directors, said the Committee’s research found there are three ways to address the need to improve recycling — mandatory recycling, curbside pick-up or pay-per-bag.

“The main reason we chose to recommend pay-per-bag,” said Johnson, “is because it works.”

Saying there are now 141 communities throughout Maine that have pay-per-bag recycling, Johnson stated, “That number (of 141 towns) is growing. The more we recycle, the more we save on (solid waste) disposal costs. With pay-per-bag, everyone plays by the same rules…Let us send a message to the non-recyclers that we mean business — we want people to play by the rules or pay the price.”

Johnson asked people to forget how the town has four times turned down pay-per-bag or mandatory recycling proposals.

“We live in a New World, a new Century, with new ways and we need to make new decisions,” said Johnson. “Let’s give our support to pay-per-bag recycling, and the town will be richer for it.”

Staci Ziminsky, whose family has been in the business of trash collecting for almost 30 years, said she and her fiancé, who is currently unemployed, have four children to support but they have always recycled and plan to continue.

However, Staci said that, like many families in this unsure economy, the cost of pay-per-bag would be too much for them.

Staci asked the selectmen, “If we can’t find ways to make money in this economy, how are we supposed to pay for the trash (bags)?”

Former selectman Bob McHatton pointed out that other attempts to have the town recycle more by proposing pay-per-bag or mandatory recycling failed each time by a nearly 4 to 1 vote.

Staci’s mother, Karen Ziminsky, said her trash disposal business will not be affected if the town goes to pay-per-bag.

Referring to the previous defeats by the voters, Karen stated, “I don’t know how many times ‘no” has to be ‘no.”

George Driscoll said he and his wife own three lots in a rural area of Bridgton where they regularly find other people’s trash thrown away on their properties.

“We are ‘rich in harvesting’ other people’s trash, in the form of 55-gallon drums, cable wheels and the like,” said Driscoll. “I wouldn’t like to see us go to pay-per-bag, or we’ll have an even ‘richer harvest.’”

David MacFarland said he, too, is concerned about the cost of trash bags for families with children — at $104 per year (two large bags per week).

MacFarland said he is in favor of recycling “100%” but that he would like to see Bridgton make recycling “more attractive” to its citizens.

“I think there’s ways we can make this work,” MacFarland said.

Adam Grant questioned the predicted savings to the town of $69,000, particularly if about $29,000 of that would be used to purchase specific bags for use by citizens.

“That’s ($69,000) a lot of money,” said Grant, “but, it’s not a lot of money when considering the whole spectrum of the town.”

Bruce White, of the Maine State Planning Office, attended Tuesday night’s informational meeting, saying, “Pay-per-bag, or pay-as-you-throw, is in your control — you’re in control of your goals…Exciting things are happening with recycling in our rural state. You’ve got hard decisions to make, but I’ve seen recycling efforts in Maine communities take off.”

Selectman Paul Hoyt reiterated that he would prefer to call it the “bonus bag” method of recycling, saying most people who regularly recycle would qualify for free or bonus bags.

Selectman Woody Woodward said that, over the years, the town has tried to figure out how to increase recycling efforts — especially by going to single-sort recycling.

As Woodward sees it, he said, “Either we give an incentive to recycle, or a disincentive not to recycle — but the big thing is we want people to recycle — it’s good for the community, it’s good for (lower) taxes and it’s good for the planet. If people would choose to recycle, we wouldn’t have to choose to do anything. We’ve got to get people to realize this is a community problem and we need to get the community involved.”

Selectman Bernie King said he has already had some people tell him they “don’t like it (recycling) crammed down their throats.”

Chairman Triglione ended the meeting by asking if people would object to having the town require the use of “clear, transparent trash bags” so transfer station employees could see what is not being recycled.

“It would give the attendants at the transfer station the opportunity to review what everyone’s throwing in the trash (hopper) — and we could mandate it, at that point, and it would take the pain off pay-per-bag and we could make some strides,” said Chairman Triglione.

Please follow and like us: