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Monday, Sep 01, 2014

St. Pete may be on road to recycling


Published:   |   Updated: February 20, 2014 at 07:02 AM

ST. PETERSBURG — Long after it became standard in most large Florida cities, curbside recycling could finally be coming to St. Petersburg doorsteps.

City officials this week will introduce a plan to offer a citywide recycling pickup service by October.

If adopted, residents would be able to mix recyclable material such as used cartons, tin cans, jars, plastic containers and discarded paper into a single container that would be picked up once a week. Recycling would not be mandatory, but every household would be charged an additional $3 a month to pay for the service.

The city would ask private waste haulers to bid for the contract, saying that the cost of extra sanitation workers and new trucks would make the service too expensive.

“The cost estimate exceeds what the private sector is charging other communities,” said Mike Connors, public works administrator. “It appears more cost effective to use the private sector.”

The proposal would have to be approved by city council members, who will get their first look at it at a meeting Thursday. The council in July called for a study on the costs of recycling after the city’s trash pickup service was blasted as outdated and inadequate in a 2013 report sponsored by the St. Petersburg Chapter of the League of Women Voters.

The report, by Kessler Consulting, stated that St. Petersburg was the only one of Florida’s 50 biggest cities not to include the service as part of its regular pickup service.

City Council member Karl Nurse said he supports offering the service but wants to see if the work can be done in-house or if the Service Employee International Union, which represents city sanitation workers, can bid for the work.

“I’m glad the administration has researched the best practices,” Nurse said. “We’re trying to find a way that is most efficient and most effective. I look forward to moving ahead.”

Rick Smith, who heads the union in St. Petersburg, said the organization is unlikely to bid because of the high cost of new trucks. But the contract is an opportunity to ensure the winning firm offers good salaries and benefits, and hires from areas of high unemployment, such as South St. Petersburg, he said.

“Our real interest is that the new jobs that would be created be for local folks,” he said.

Connors said the city’s request for proposals would require bidders to hire a percentage of local workers.

St. Petersburg does provide recycling centers for residents conscientious enough to load their car with recycled trash. It also offers a subscription curbside pickup for residents willing to pay an extra $3.75 a month. About 7,000 of the city’s 76,000 households take advantage of that service.

The city also recycles about 35,000 tons of yard waste a year, about 5,000 tons of electronics and about 25,000 tons of asphalt, roofing material and other construction debris.

In the past, officials rebutted calls for curbside recycling by pointing to polls that said residents do not want to pay more for recycling. The city’s twice-weekly trash pickup costs about $22.

Impetus to move ahead with curbside recycling also came from Mayor Rick Kriseman, who asked city staff to come up with a recommendation for city council.

It reflects an emphasis on making the city environmentally friendly. Kriseman recently appointed Connors to lead the new Office of Sustainability and Green Initiatives and announced a project to use solar and ground water to heat and cool the swimming pool at the North Shore Aquatic Complex.

City council member Darden Rice, who has campaigned for curbside recycling for several years, welcomed the proposal, but wants the city to find ways to add the service without additional cost.

“Finally the stars have aligned where we have elected officials that want to get this done,” she said.

 

codonnell@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7654

Twitter: @codonnellTBO

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