South Portland to expand recycling services to 8 condo complexes

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Residents in eight condominium complexes will be allowed to participate in the city’s automated recycling program.

The possibility of expanding the city’s recycling program has been on the table for about a year, but the City Council was split on the proposal, since condominiums are required to provide solid waste services to their residents in exchange for being allowed to build roads that don’t meet requirements for city streets. 

As a compromise, city staff suggested reopening the program to condo complexes that previously enjoyed recycling services before the service was outsourced to Pine Tree Waste, which uses large bins with wheels and trucks with robotic arms to collect materials. While some condo residents received bins under the city’s old recycling system, they did not receive new bins when the service changed.

Tim Gato, assistant to the director of public works, said the city should receive 100 new recycling bins within four to six weeks. About 56 bins, about one for every four residences, will be distributed to eight condo complexes that have expressed interest in the city program. The remainder will be used to replace or repair damaged bins.

The proposal received the blessing of the City Council at a workshop Monday night. But since the $5,600 expense is below the threshold established by the City Charter, the council will not have to formally vote to expand the program.

Over the last few months, the city has been collecting surveys that were distributed to 10 residents of condominium complexes that received curbside recycling from the city before the service was outsourced two years ago. 

Eight of the developments responded to the survey: The Henley, Pleasantdale Condos, Jamestown Court, Dow’s Woods, Ships Watch, Spring Point, Harbor Place and Tilton/Pine Knoll apartments. Of the 217 units in those complexes, only 79 responded to the survey, and about half said they are willing to split the cost with the city.

While all councilors supported efforts to increase recycling in the city, they disagreed about whether to charge the governing boards of the condos for the extra bins. 

Councilor Jim Hughes, along with Councilors Tom Coward and Patti Smith, argued that the condo owners should split the cost of the new bins with the city as a way to test their commitment to the program. 

“I don’t want to go ahead with this at all if we’re not getting use out of this,” Hughes said. “We could get a more committed group (by charging).”

But Mayor Tom Blake and Councilors Maxine Beecher and Linda Boudreau argued that collecting the payments for the bins would be more work than it’s worth and that charging for bins would discourage participation.

“The easier it is, the more people recycle,” Beecher said. “This isn’t a lot of money.”

Boudreau said she is also disappointed that the city wasn’t taking full advantage of Pine Tree Waste’s offer to make 100 additional stops for free. 

“If we can’t have 100, I’ll take 50,” she said.

The $5,600 cost will come from the Solid Waste Disposal account, which has a balance of $55,000, according to City Manager Jim Gaily. The council will review the program in six months. 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or