Scarborough weighs pay-per-bag trash disposal

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SCARBOROUGH — The town will consider adopting a pay-as-you-throw waste disposal program. 

The Town Council on Wednesday referred the proposal to the energy committee, which will determine whether the program would reduce waste and save money. The committee will then prepare a plan that includes recommendations for the council.

The goal with a PAYT program is to urge residents to be more economical with the amount of waste they discard, since they would have to pay for every trash bag used. 

Since 2007 Scarborough has used a curbside municipal solid waste management program. It costs approximately $1.3 million a year, and is funded by taxpayers.

Town Manager Tom Hall and Public Works Director Michael Shaw presented the benefits of a PAYT program in a Town Council workshop last month. 

From a monetary side, part of the appeal of a PAYT program is that it’s a non-property tax revenue source, Hall said at the April 15 workshop. PAYT is a metered service, Shaw said, similar to buying gasoline or paying for electricity.

Other municipalities that have adopted similar programs see between an annual 25 and 45 percent reduction in waste tonnage, Shaw said. 

“The bottom line is, every ton of waste that we send to ecomaine costs us $70.50. Every ton of waste we take out saves us $70.50, so it’s a very simple equation,” he said. 

According to ecomaine, Scarborough’s approximate 6,200 households each discard an average of 580 tons of waste annually. In the last year, Scarborough’s recycling rate is 33.4 percent.  

PAYT has the potential to slash collected waste to approximately 330 tons per household, Shaw said. 

Two sizes of bags would likely be offered with a PAYT program: 13- or 30-gallon. With prices per bag estimated to range from $1.75 to $2, and calculating the rate of trash disposed by residents (4.5 bags per month), paying for PAYT is estimated to cost about $9 per month, or $108 annually. 

The goal, in addition to being more deliberate with waste disposal, is to provide an incentive for residents to produce less waste in order to spend less on waste disposal. 

At the workshop, Councilor Shawn Babine said 100 percent of the people he has talked to “are totally against this.”

But at Wednesday’s meeting, he said the council’s decision to give the task to the energy committee “is a very nice solution to a very difficult conversation.”

Hall, at the April 15 workshop, admitted it won’t be easy to convince some residents to support a change.

“There’s no question that this is a tough sell for those already doing a good job recycling,” he said.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.