If you've driven around the city of Bangor in the past few weeks, you may have noticed there have been a number of overflowing garbage bins that have not been collected on trash day.

There's a reason for that, and why they won't be going anywhere until the lids on those bins can close.

Bangor Trash Bins, Jeff Tuttle
Bangor Trash Bins, Jeff Tuttle

Back in the summer of 2020, the City of Bangor changed to a single “one bin all in”, automated trash pick-up program.

Essentially, we were told that we were supposed to stop sorting out our recycling and that automated trucks would now be picking up the trash we put out curbside-and that all of it, what we used to throw out AND what we used to recycle had to now fit into one big bin.

When the details came out, initially, Bangor residents were provided with specifics as to what they could and couldn't put into these bins, and the guidelines for their bin placement.

Then the city issued 96-gallon bins to each family in Bangor and even offered to pick up the old bins (which was optional as most folks chose to keep their bins for yard waster and bottles & cans, etc.)

Trash Bin Guidelines For Bangor, BangorMaine.gov/trash
Trash Bin Guidelines For Bangor, BangorMaine.gov/trash

The move to automated trucks came in the wake of a couple of trash collectors who were struck in the line of duty. These new trucks keep them safe, inside the vehicles, and let the trucks literally do the heavy lifting.

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Casella Waste Systems, the company that picks up the trash now in Bangor, says they came up with these guidelines for some very good reasons.

"They have to be placed curbside, 3 to 5 feet from the edge of the road, and all of the garbage has to complete in the container, lid closed."

While that was, indeed, in the information Bangor residents received, not all residents complied with the "lid closed" part of things for the first year or so. In fact, most of the bins I saw around town rarely had their lids closed.

But as it was discussed in a Bangor City Council Meeting this week, with members of Public Works and Casella, those rules became more of a concrete thing, in the wake of a number of different issues, including one harrowing situation that occurred when some residents were trying to throw loose bags of trash up into the automated truck (only one opening) and proceeded to retrieve one that landed on the ground between the mechanical arm and truck tires, putting themselves at great risk.

That's when the City reached out to Casella and said they needed to start to crack down on these bin-busting culprits.

"Over the past few months, we’ve experienced more and more overflowing bins, especially since the holidays. During the month of January, we stickered carts noting the exception as we dumped them. Two weeks ago we began leaving carts behind that were not compliant with the City Ordinance and our collection program.”

Trash requirement reminder sticker
Trash requirement reminder sticker, Casella and City of Bangor

The reason, Casella says, has to do with safety and public health.

"Excess bags and loose material present a safety risk for multiple reasons. As the material is dumped overhead in the truck, the material can fall out and get caught up on the top of the truck. Not only does the material present a potential fire hazard, it requires our employees to remove it safely, not an easy thing to do any time of year, let alone in the winter vehicles are covered in ice and snow. If the material is not detected, it could also come loose and impact an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian. From a public health standpoint, open lids create greater opportunity for litter from loose debris while also providing easy access for crows and critters."

Many residents complained to the City and to Casella, with the biggest issue having to do with a lack of proper notice that Casella was going to start enforcing the closed-bin rule. And both the City and Casella representatives admitted more could have been done to get the word out to residents, both old and new, that a change would be coming, and why it needed to happen.

If you do have an overflowing trash bin, you can buy another bin, as recommended on the City's website:

"These bins are very large and exceed the weekly average output of Bangor households. Crews will also make an additional run during peak holiday season. That being said, additional 96-gallon bins are available for $260 each year, which averages out to $5/week. The fee covers the disposal cost of the extra trash generated as well as the cost of service and maintenance for the bin. Call Public Works at 207-992-4500 for more information."

Casella also has some other cleanup options for smaller, one-time situations, including dumpster rentals, available on their website or you can call them to arrange for pickup of extra trash or bulk items like furniture and mattresses for a fee.

On occasions where I've had more trash than my bin can fit, I've reached out to my neighbors to see if any of them might have any extra space

Just know from this point forward, if the lids don't close, your trash won't go.

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