Auburn city councilors said it costs $144 a ton to recycle while it costs only $42 to incinerate it.
Recycling waits to be picked up in Orono on June 12, 2014. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Auburn councilors voted unanimously Monday night to eliminate the city’s recycling program.

Councilor Stephen Milks, who made the motion, said the program is no longer worth it.

“And I realize that many people put a lot of time and effort into this program,” Milks said. “However, the program is not working effectively for the amount it costs.”

Councilors said it costs $144 a ton to process recycling versus $42 a ton to process waste at a facility where it’s burnt and converted into energy. And Mayor Jason Levesque said only 7 percent of residents recycle.

“It sounds harsh. I got to tell you, I’m having a hard time,” Levesque said. “You know, and had many conversations with people, including my own wife about this, who’s an avid recycler. But when we look past getting it picked up on the side of the road, we realize what’s really happening out there. Stuff that’s beyond our control.”

The city will save $227,000 by not recycling. Councilors said that will cover half the cost of new trash bins that will soon be required by Casella waste.

A 2020 report from an ad hoc recycling committee found a lack of data transparency to accurately evaluate Auburn’s recycling performance. It found that processing costs could be lowered if more Auburn residents recycled, and recommended the city provide better community education. It also suggested the city consider switching contractors or negotiating a better contract.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.