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Biddeford cracking down on contaminated recycling

Beginning later this month, if you throw non-recyclables into your recycling bin three times in 12 months, public works could revoke your recycling services.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — The City of Biddeford will soon enforce a new ordinance aimed at keeping trash out of the recycling bins. Beginning later this month, a three-strike policy will take effect, where if you are observed to have contamination in your recycling bin, your recycling services could be revoked.

"This change isn’t intended to punish those who make a small accident when judging whether or not something is recyclable," Jeff Demers, Biddeford Director of Public Works, said. "This is a mechanism for our staff to be able to address those who use their recycling bin as a second trash can and are not even attempting to recycle correctly."

The Biddeford City Council approved an amendment to the city’s recycling ordinance that would allow the Public Works Department to revoke recycling services from repeat offenders.

Demers said the first two times a residence is observed to be throwing non-recyclables into the recycling bin, the bin will not be emptied, and the household will receive a notice explaining how to improve their recycling. 

When it happens a third time, they will no longer receive recycling collection services and will be required to lease a larger trash bin and pay a $122 yearly fee for it. Demers said residents will stay be able to bring recyclables to the Public Works Recycling Center.

"Over the last few years contamination has been a big issue for us. Part of the contract with Casella is we pay for any contamination," Demers said. "Right now, we're in the 20th percentile. So, that means that we pay an extra 25.99 per ton for contamination."

Demers said a recent audit from Casella Waste Management, which the city partners with for recycling and trash services, showed that about 20 percent of what's showing up in recycling bins isn't recyclable.

"When they misuse the system, these individuals are causing extra expenses for all other households who put in the time and effort to recycle correctly," Demers said.

Some of the common items showing up are food waste, plastic bags, and electronics. Demers said they have even seen things like brake rotors, a bowling ball, and a sandbag.

"If you're recycling, great. We appreciate all the recycling people are doing. But if there's any question, or you're in doubt, just throw it out," Demers said. 

If you have a question on whether or not something is recyclable, you can call Public Works at 207-282-1579  and find information on the department's website.

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