The South Portland City Council explored Monday night how to expand recycling to apartment and condominiums without incurring a lot of cost.

The city’s big expansion of automated curbside recycling in 2008 bypassed most of the residents who do not live in single-family homes.

Mayor Tom Blake, with the support of Councilor Linda Boudreau, is trying to lead an effort to make recycling available to the residents who live in roughly 1,100 apartment and condo units in South Portland.

At a Monday night workshop, the seven-member Council weighed several options for providing the service, from having trucks travel into apartment complexes to pick up the recyclables to requiring building managers to put bins curbside on public roadways.

But the debate quickly focused on costs. At a time of budget constraints, Councilor Jim Soule said he does not want to spend any money to add condos and apartments to the recycling program. Instead, he wants to have condo associations and apartment complexes shoulder the costs for joining the program.

City Manager Jim Gailey explained that most of the city’s condominiums and apartments have been excluded from trash and recycling pickup, in part because roads into complexes are private and may not meet the city’s standards for vehicles with heavy loads.

Many of these buildings already contract with private haulers to remove trash.

Gailey said Pine Tree Waste – which handles South Portland’s recycling – could pick up the additional 1,100 units for just under $50,000 by traveling into the complexes.

The recycling for apartments and condos would be done manually, instead of Pine Tree using its automated trucks.

The city could save money by not providing the new 65-gallon recycling bins on wheels. Instead, people would use the old 14-gallon plastic totes.

Boudreau argued the city instead should require residents of apartments and condos to follow the same protocol single-family homeowners do. If 65-gallon containers were wheeled out to the road, the city could save money on pickup costs and not put Pine Tree’s trucks at risk when traveling on substandard private roads.

Stu Axelrod of Pine Tree Waste agreed it is cheaper for the city to require residents to put their recyclables in a container on a public road. He said costs then would be minimal for pickup, since the trucks would be following their regular routes.

Soule said the city should insist that the associations and building owners incur the cost to buy the bins, which run about $55 each. The Council seemed to support Soule’s suggestion.

But Councilor Jim Hughes argued the city should not incur any cost, whether it is for new bins or to have Pine Tree pick up the recyclables.

Councilor Patti Smith said she would like the Public Works Department to conduct a needs assessment to find out just how many apartment buildings and condo complexes would participate in the program.

Until the city has an understanding of the demand, she said it cannot have a clear idea of the costs.

She also said she would like to see examples of cost-sharing that other municipalities have done with residents with recycling. “We need to find creative ways to help people out.”

Axelrod promised to come up with pickup costs, if residents were required to put their recycling bins next to public roadways.

The Council agreed to hold another workshop in the near future, after city staff have surveyed apartment managers and condo associations to gauge how many might participate.

Councilor Tom Coward said he would like to see some condominium residents at the next workshop to hear their thoughts and ideas.

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