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Politics

Survey says Tampa slacking at recycling

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Published:   |   Updated: April 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM
TAMPA -

As Tampa mounts a recycling push that will put 95-gallon, lime-green carts in the carport of every garbage customer, a recent survey paints the city as a recycling laggard.

The Bridgestone Recycling and Sustainability Earth Day Survey put Tampa 20 percentage points behind some cities and found that more than a quarter of Tampa residents don’t recycle at all.

But making comparisons with other cities can be misleading, local officials say, because some areas have mandatory recycling programs. Tampa’s program is voluntary.

The survey, conducted online in 20 U.S. cities, revealed that 72 percent of Tampa residents said they recycle regularly. That is low compared to many cities such as Boston and New York, where 93 percent recycle. The survey showed 88 percent of Miami’s residents recycle regularly.

Surveyed cities of similar size to Tampa include Riverside, Calif. and St. Louis, said Eliza Winston, with Bridgestone. Riverside has mandatory recycling, and 94 percent of its residents recycle. St. Louis has voluntary recycling, and the survey shows 81 percent of its citizens recycle.

One of the reasons for the low recycling percentages in Tampa citied in the survey was nearly a third of the respondents said they didn’t know if they had curbside recycling offered at their homes. That’s 10 percent higher than most other cities surveyed.

Tampa’s solid waste department is hoping to change that by rolling out its wheeled green carts to every one of the 80,000 or so garbage customers over the next year and a half. Hillsborough County is launching a similar program this year.

In February, the city’s solid waste department launched the “Be Smart, Use Your Cart” program, in which the 14-gallon blue recycling bins currently in use will be replaced with the much larger carts. The new cart, the department says on its website, “holds more recyclables, reduces litter and easily rolls to the curb and back.”

Janice Smiles, who lives in the Beach Park neighborhood of South Tampa, ran a blue bin out to the curb Tuesday as the truck carrying the green carts passed by her home. She was able to trade her old, small bin for a new, larger one, even though the truck had moved several houses past her address.

“I’ve been recycling for years, before there was curbside service,” she said. “I used to carry my stuff to the recycling center.”

She said the larger cart makes recycling more convenient and is easier to wheel to the curb.

Two years ago, the department conducted its own study to figure out who was recycling and where. That study is being used now, and neighborhoods that recycle regularly are the first ones to get the carts.

Once the green carts are distributed, the blue, dirty-clothes-basket-size bins no longer will be serviced by the city.

Amy Hyman gladly traded her blue bin for a green cart Tuesday.

“You can get a lot more in them,” she said, standing in front of her Culbreath Avenue home.

While the Bridgestone survey pointed out some city residents don’t recycle at all, Tonja Brickhouse, director of the city’s solid waste department, said a third of the city’s customers use the curbside blue bins and recycle on a regular basis.

She said that between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, the city collected 9,413 tons of recyclables from its 42 recycling routes.

If you include yard waste, which is recycled into mulch, metal salvaged from incinerator ash and electronic gear from which valuable metals are plucked, the city collected 21,257 tons of recycled material, she said.

She expects that once the carts find their way to people’s homes, recycling will uptick.

“Most recycling studies show that if you introduce carts,” she said, “it will increase participation.”


kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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