SANFORD — The Sanford Solid Waste Subcommittee said it will recommend an increase in the price of Pay As You Throw trash bags to the Sanford City Council to offset costs associated with a new recycling contract with Ecomaine.

The matter will likely be on the City Council’s agenda in late April, city officials said when discussing the issue earlier this week. As well, the subcommittee plans to recommend approval of an extension of a contract for curbside trash and recycling pick-up by Pine Tree Waste.

Sanford’s Solid Waste Committee says it will recommend a price increase of $3.50 per sleeve for PAYT trash bags to the City Council sometime in April. The increase would go to cover the cost of a new recycling contract. The current contract with Ecomaine, which accepted recycling at no charge, is poised to increase to $65 a ton on July 1. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

For the past several years, Ecomaine has accepted Sanford’s recycling at no cost — a contract once enjoyed by a number of municipalities. Ecomaine in turn sold the recycled materials from Sanford and other communities in markets across the world. But the market for recycling has been down for the past couple of years, and Sanford’s contract with Ecomaine expires at the end of this fiscal year.

Ecomaine is no longer offering zero cost recycling contracts, city officials said.

Under the terms of the proposed contract, which the subcommittee also recommends, the cost to dispose of recycling at Ecomaine starting July 1 will be $65 a ton. Sanford disposes of about 3,500 tons of recycling annually, for a total of $227,500.

Sanford’s PAYT bags currently cost $10 for a sleeve of five, 33-gallon bags, eight, 15-gallon bags or 10, eight-gallon bags. The subcommittee is poised to recommend that the fee increase to $13.50 a sleeve. City officials point out it will be the first increase in bag fees in the six years the program has been in place.

That works out to an increase of about 70 cents a week or $36 more a year, based on the use of one large, 33 gallon trash bag a week, said subcommittee member and Councilor Robert Stackpole.

Kennebunk has increased their PAYT bags from $15 to $22 a sleeve, City Manager Steve Buck said.

Both Stackpole and Councilor John Tuttle, chair of the subcommittee, quickly pointed out that Sanford isn’t Kennebunk.

“There will still be heartburn over this,” Stackpole predicted.

The city would have to raise $227,500 more in the budget if the bag fees aren’t increased, city officials said. Estimates on how much that would add to the proposed mil rate was not available. If Sanford’s municipal and school budgets were to pass as originally presented, city officials have projected the mil rate would increase by about 96 cents.

“I don’ know if it’s even worth recycling,” said subcommittee member and Deputy Mayor Luke Lanigan.

Buck said that the cost to dispose of household trash will be $76.50 per ton starting on July 1 — about $11.50 more per ton than the recycling rate. As well, he said, if Sanford were to stop recycling and the markets then rebound, it would take years to reach good recycling levels again. He said there are indications that the market for some recyclables, like cardboard and paper, might improve.

The quality of the bags was also discussed — some residents have complained that the bags came apart easily.

Public Works Director Matt Hill said the bag manufacturer has addressed the quality issue by replacing a machine that manufactures the bags. He said residents should take any faulty bags they have to the Public Works office building on School Street.

Sanford had hoped to change its curbside trash collection to automated bins, but that is on hold for a couple of years because, Buck said, his research shows recycling bins tend to be contaminated with items that Ecomaine — and the world’s recycling buyers — won’t accept..

A year ago, some residents’ recycling was left at curbside because items like plastic bags, polystyrene foam and other materials were contaminating the system, which could have resulted in hefty fines to the community. That soon changed as Ecomaine, the city and others then stepped up to inform residents of what was and was not acceptable.

Recently, Sanford Public Works Department earned Ecomaine’s “Eco- Excellence Award” for their “prompt and cooperative reaction” to the issue of contamination in the city’s recycling stream. The city was able to reduce contamination of nearly 20 percent to a rate close to zero, according to Ecomaine.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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