SANFORD – Sanford is about to launch a series of forums in order to get public input into a new trash and recycling program first proposed in December.
The “More In Return” program seeks to provide Sanford residents with further incentive to recycle. If implemented, it would see the return of the purchasing of specific Sanford trash bags, but would provide a credit for residents at the end of each year in the form of a debit card. The goal is to lower the city’s trash disposal costs.
The program, which is run by Massachusetts-based company Waste Zero, will take an average-use approach, meaning residents will receive a credit for the average number of bags sold to each resident per year. Those who exceed the average number of bags used would receive less in credit than what was spent on bags, and vice versa.
The first of five public forums will be held Monday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m., in the Community Room of the Goodall Library. Representatives from Waste Zero will be present at each of the forums to give details of the program.
Sanford Mayor Maura Herlihy said the forums will be an opportunity for Waste Zero to explain the basic ideas surrounding the program, while also giving members of the City Council’s solid waste subcommittee a chance to take notes on questions, concerns and opinions stemming from the discussions. She is hoping that residents attend the public forums to at least provide officials with feedback and opinions.
Representatives from Waste Zero will also be available at 6 p.m. before all the forums to answer questions from citizens who may want to ask questions privately.
Herlihy said that regardless of whether the public decides on “More In Return,” something needs to be done. She expects members of the solid waste subcommittee to bring potential issues residents have in to the council for discussion.
“They’ll either bring in potential changes, the program will go ahead as is, or maybe the program isn’t going to work,” Herlihy said. “But, unfortunately something has to work.”
Sanford implemented a pay-as-you-throw program in July 2010, but it was quickly struck down during a November referendum that year. A number of residents saw the required purchase of the bags as an extra tax, but Sanford officials were and still are looking for ways to lower the cost of trash disposal, which has been steadily rising.
According to Charles Andreson, the director of Sanford Public Works, the town pays $86 a ton to dispose of waste, which is about $18 more a ton than just two years ago.
“If we were to recycle 1,000 more tons a year of curbside collected material, we could reduce our tax expenditures by $86,000,” Andreson said in December.
Sanford saw a significant decrease in trash production and an increase in recycling during the months when the pay-as-you-throw program was in place.
Some 150 communities in Maine have a pay-as-you-throw program. According to its website, Waste Zero provides pay-as-you-throw programs, as well as other incentives, to nearly 800 communities throughout the United States.