ORONO, Maine — The town has agreed to hire a local engineering firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of solid waste services with the hope of identifying potential options for changes.
Town councilors voted Monday to hire CES Inc. of Brewer to perform the audit for no more than $14,000. The money will be taken from the town’s landfill closure reserve account, which was created a few years ago to prepare for the eventual closure of the Orono landfill on outer Forest Avenue.
Orono is one of many communities grappling with waste removal and recycling in light of decreased space in landfills and soon-to-be increasing rates at Penobscot Energy Recovery Center in Orrington, which burns trash to produce energy.
Bangor has started moving toward a single-stream recycling program coupled with a pay-as-you-throw system for trash removal. Brewer instituted a similar system at the beginning of the year. Other communities across Maine and in other parts of the country have done the same.
“A lot of towns are changing, but we are not quite there yet,” Interim Town Manager Maria Weinberger said. “I think what we’re doing now is looking at things in a global context to see if there are efficiencies to be had.”
Orono already has a successful curbside recycling program, but single-stream recycling allows more items to be recycled. Single-stream recycling allows residents to put all recyclables, approximately 25 different materials, together in one receptacle without sorting. The method is convenient to consumers and has proved to be effective in boosting recycling rates and decreasing solid waste, but it’s also labor-intensive and costly to process.
In order to help pay for costs associated with single-stream recycling, many communities have instituted fees for trash bags, an idea that is not always popular.
“Anytime you consider changes you need to educate citizens,” Weinberger said. “If we have this study done, it’s a more meaningful, unbiased look.”
Weinberger said the goal is to have the audit completed by mid-April ahead of the town’s budget discussions. If any proposed changes have budget implications for the 2011-12 fiscal year, councilors will have enough time to address them.
Additionally, Orono’s contract with Pine Tree Waste Services for curbside trash removal expires on July 1.