Councilor Andy Titus and Mayor Jason Levesque suggested last week that the city suspend its curbside program for a year while a new committee assesses the state of recycling and potential changes. The council decided Monday to form the committee but not to suspend curbside collection. Concerned environmental advocates said they supported the decision to continue with the recycling program.

After some debate, councilors voted to shorten the time frame of the committee from 12 to six months, with an option to extend for another six months. The new committee was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Councilor Holly Lasagna opposed based on its shortened scope.

According to the resolve adopted by councilors, the committee’s purpose is to “determine the environmental impact of the program as it currently exists,” compare the city’s current model to other models that it could adopt and “conduct a cost/benefit analysis, including the financial and environmental costs that are avoided by the production of post-recycled consumer goods.”

It goes on to say, “We know there are increased recycling costs and a portion of previously recycled materials are going to landfills and incinerators,” and, “we need to adapt to a changing marketplace and share strategies on how other municipalities have responded to these new challenges.” The committee will also be expected to work with city staff to develop an educational plan for the community, including the current recycling practice or any adopted changes.

Prior to the vote, Auburn resident Sam Boss, the assistant director of community engaged learning and research at Bates College, was among those who urged the council not to suspend the program. He argued that at a time when climate change has received heightened and warranted attention, suspending the program would signal to young people “that we’re not thinking of your future.”

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