BATH — Bath is boosting the cost of its municipal trash bags in hopes of reducing the amount of waste residents toss and extending the life of its landfill.

With the start of the new year, Bath residents will see a 15-cent increase per trash bag. Fifteen-gallon bags will now cost $1.50 each and 30-gallon bags will rise to $2.50 each. Bags are sold in packs of five, totaling $7.50 and $12.50 for 15 and 30-gallon bags, respectively.

This increase is the second phase in a multistep cost jump. In 2019, the Bath City Council approved boosting the price of pay-as-you-throw trash bags by 25 cents per bag, as requested by the city’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

The council voted to split the increase over two years to ease the financial burden on residents, according to Lindsey Goudreau, city spokesperson. The bags increased by 10 cents in January 2020 and the remaining 15-cent increase was enacted this month. The bags will then increase by 5 cents each year from 2022 to 2032.

Lee Leiner, Bath public works director, said the cost hike stems from the city’s desire to be more environmentally friendly while extending the life of its nearly full landfill.

“The idea of a pay-as-you-throw program is to raise awareness about how much trash we’re all creating,” said Leiner. “It’s also equitable because you pay for the trash you generate. Regardless of your economic position, why should one person pay for the trash another person generates. The more bags you generate, the more you pay.”

Raise also keeps up with inflation in the city’s solid waste budget, which funds all the curbside collection of trash and recycling and the drop-off kiosks for compost, said Leiner.

For those looking to make their trash bags last longer, Leiner recommended buying things with recyclable packaging and composting organic waste.

“Choices begin at the grocery store,” he said. “When we’re standing in the grocery store and choosing what products we want, we often don’t think about how that eventually becomes waste.”

Although residents must pay for trash bags, Leiner said recycling is unlimited and free.

For those interested in composting but don’t have access to a yard, subscriptions to Garbage to Garden are available for $15 monthly. Garbage to Garden allows people to collect their organic waste, like egg shells, coffee grounds and vegetable scraps, in a pail that’s collected weekly by the company.

Bath’s 8,338 residents throw 10,000-12,000 tons of trash in the city’s landfill each year, said Lee Leiner, Bath public works director. Over the past 50 years, Leiner said about 1.5 million tons of trash have accumulated in the landfill.

“At the current rate we’re filling it, we’ll need to close the landfill about 15 years from now,” Leiner said.

The Bath landfill is made up of different cells that were formed then filled over time. The city is filling its last cell, which was about 10% full this time last year, Leiner said.

Once the cell is full, Leiner said the city will need to cover the landfill with several layers of impermeable plastic, clay and dirt so water can’t get in and gas can’t get out. He estimated that project will cost the city $3.5 million to $4 million.

“The longer the landfill lasts, the longer the city has its own destiny in its own hands,” said Leiner. “Once that’s closed, it’ll be more expensive to take our waste somewhere else.”

Steve Brackett, co-founder of Brackett’s Market on Front Street in Bath, said he thinks his customers who “already do not like being forced to buy them” will be upset about the cost increase.

“The shock of the price increase will be taken out on retail clerks throughout the city, retailers and cashiers that sell the city trash bags, such as ourselves,” Brackett wrote in an email to The Times Record. “The price that the customer pays is exactly what we must pay to purchase the bags. Zero markup or penny profit.”

Brackett said his grocery store typically sells between 250-300 packs of each size monthly, but that number usually increases in the summer. He said he doesn’t think the increased bag prices will change the number of trash bags people buy.

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