I read with interest the articles about city trash collectors depositing both trash and recycling into the trash collection truck. They bring attention to Portland’s system of recycling and trash collection – once considered progressive, but now seen as regressive by those of us who conduct research and consult on municipal solid waste policies and programs.

Portland’s pay-as-you-throw bag system, coupled with nonmechanized trucks that pick up trash and recycling, is passé, unfair and expensive to residents. It makes Portland and the bag company lots of dollars on what’s essentially a regressive tax. It also fosters trash shifting to businesses with dumpsters as well as theft of bags at stores.

There are three main types of pay-as-you-throw collection methods: carts (bins), specially printed bags or bags with identifying stickers/tags, or a hybrid of the two.

The cart (bin) method is becoming the predominant method in the Midwest, in part because it’s tied to the increased popularity of automation and can be designed so families are allotted a certain amount of trash as part of the property tax, and over that pay more – a necessary criterion for an equitable public good service.

Towns such as Kennebunk have already moved to bins and now are considering doing away with their bag program and implementing a weight-based system.

Many other communities (Lewiston, Woolwich, Bar Harbor) are voting against the specialty bag pay-as-you-throw program because it is expensive, does not improve recycling significantly and fosters trash shifting, among other drawbacks – it applies only to residents, not businesses.

In short, there are many other fairer and equally or more effective ways to reduce municipal trash. The composting program in Portland is laudable, but it is expensive for low-income families.

Portland should try to act like the progressive city it purports to be and implement a fairer and more effective system for its residents and businesses.

Ron Deprez

former Portland resident

Deer Isle