To reduce the problem of recycling contamination, the Biddeford City C council voted to put new rules in place for curbside pickup of recyclables from grandfathered multi-family properties. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune file photo

BIDDEFORD — To decrease contamination levels of recyclable material in Biddeford, multi-family properties that have their recycling picked up curbside and paid for by the city will have more requirements next month.

On March 5, the City Council voted that grandfathered facilities — multi-families of six or more units and other properties that would require commercial pick up of recycling if not for their grandfathered status — must file a recycling plan with the city. The plan will include the facility’s owner and contact information and a “procedure to ensure only acceptable recycling materials are placed in the recycling container for curbside collection,” according to the ordinance amendment.

Affected properties have 30 days from the date the ordinance takes affect to submit a recycling plan to the Code Enforcement Office. The codes office will identify in writing any deficiencies in the plan with a due date of a response.

Penalties will be waived for the first three months to allow for education about the changes.

Once that period is over, any grandfathered facility that generates two documented violations within a 12-month period shall lose its city service of trash and recycling pick up.

“It’s a reaction to the national issue of contaminated recycling,” said Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney as to the reason for the amendment.

The major outlet for the country’s recyclable material has been China, he said, but that country developed stricter guidelines for the type of material it would accept. Because China stopped accepting many forms of recyclable material from plastics to unsorted paper, instead of getting paid for recyclables, it now costs the city money to get rid of this material, Demers said.

The city’s Public Works Department conducted studies and learned that grandfathered facilities were the biggest culprits of contaminated recycling. It examined material deposited in recycling receptacles from the 54 multi-family properties of six units or more that use the city’s curbside recycling pick up program, and found that between 30 to 35 percent of that product was contaminated, Public Works Director Jeff Demers said during a telephone interview in December.

The company that processes the city’s recycling would like the contamination rate of all the city’s recyclable material brought down to 5 percent or lower. If that doesn’t happen in the near future, the city could incur financial penalties Demers said.

Curbside pick up of recycling began in 2013. Pick up of recyclables was part of the deal struck when the city purchased the Maine Energy Recovery Company trash incinerator in 2012 from Casella Waste Systems for $6.65 million. Casella-owned Pine Tree Waste provides curbside pick up of recyclables and that material is brought to a Casella-owned facility in Westbrook. The city of Biddeford continues to provide curbside pick up service for most residents’ waste, including those grandfathered properties.

Pine Tree picks up about 130,000 tons of recyclable material each month, Demers said. The fist year of the contract the city paid Pine Tree $375,00 to pick up its recyclable material. The cost goes up each year of the 10-year contract, based on the Consumer Price Index, he said.

When Biddeford undertook the program establishing curbside pick up recycling, residential properties were included in the program but most commercial properties were not. Multi-family residential properties of six or more units are considered by the city to be commercial, but City Council allowed some of these buildings, which it grandfathered, to participate in the program.

According to Demers, the biggest culprit of recycling contamination is plastic bags. Reducing those bags from the recycling stream may be the next step.

The city’s Solid Waste Management Commission is considering at its March 20 meeting an ordinance amendment that would ban the use of single-use, carry out, plastic bags — a measure which neighboring Saco and Kennebunk have already taken. This amendment could go to the City Council for consideration.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 780-9014 or [email protected]

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