ST PETE CURBSIDE RECYCLING PROGRAM WILL NOT HAPPEN-Andrew Stelzer

04/18/06

A yearlong campaign to get curbside recycling in St Petersburg appears to be over, without any new recycling program being created. A request for bids for a voluntary recycling program found no takers, so for now St Pete will continue on as the largest city in the state of Florida without curbside recycling. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer has the story.

ACT-Foster “i've been on council since 1998, and it seems to go nowhere..�

City council member Bill Foster wanted to put a referendum on mandatory recycling on the November 2005 ballot, but the rest of the council did not support the idea.

ACT-Foster “We had a great opportunity to let voters speak, we had 4 elected council seats, it was almost set up and I thought it would be a perfect time to let the voters and tax payers, and my colleagues voted me down..’

Foster says he will not support a mandatory recycling program unless the public votes to do it, but surveys conducted by the city indicate that isn’t close to happening.

ACT-Foster “Our survey data says people would support it at no expense, but when the prices goes up, 50%, 4 or 5 dollars, it dipped pretty low.�

In the mean time, the city put out a request for bids for a voluntary curbside-recycling program, where only the people who pay for it, get pickups. But Chuck Schauer, sanitation director for the city of St Petersburg, says the idea was not attractive to any of the 11 vendors who were asked for their interest.

ACT-Schauer “The bid that was for subscription based recycling, and those that responded said they would not be willing to pay the price, so they didn’t want to buy the equipment and get around the city..�

Schauer thinks that any company would provide citywide recycling, but the cost of the voluntary program does not make sense.

ACT-Schauer “The problem is that curbside recycling is you only get 4% of stream..so you may not be saving resources..�

The news comes as a disappointment to a group called the first progressive club of St Petersburg, which has led the campaign for curbside recycling of Newspaper, aluminum cans, mixed papers, plastics, clear glass. Ed helm is the co-chair of the group.

ACT-helm “It was flawed from the beginning, and I think it was political…�

Helm unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of St Petersburg in 200—a major component of his campaign was that he wanted to institute mandatory curbside recycling. His opponent, incumbent mayor Rick Baker was opposed to the idea, and Helm says he believes the council kowtowed to Bakers agenda.

ACT-helm “There was a subcommittee of the council, I filed for mayor…’

Schauer says the current system with 15 locations throughout the city where people can drop off their recyclables costs about 45 cents per household per month, but it only recovers about 1.5% of the solid waste stream.

ACT-Schauer “Its gonna be along time before you can do curbside recycling…I’m not too cure you are saving anything environmentally..besides most of our solid waste is burned, its generating electricity..�

Councilman Foster says he thinks that if St Pete had pushed mandatory recycling 10 or 15 years ago, when it was just starting up in cities across the country, people would have supported it, but now its more expensive and it’s a tougher sell to the people.

ACT-foster “Its not like the landfills are running out of space, there urgency..�

ACT-foster “I don’t see it as a huge black eye, I'm getting mail, I don’t see St Pete as being a contributor to an environmental problem..�

Foster was in opposition to the idea of the voluntary recycling program floated last year.

ACT-foster “I thought that was stupid, I knew it was not going to get bids. I say do it or don’t do it at all�

ACT-foster “A referendum to do it once and for all, lets decide..�

But Helm firmly believes that the people of St Pete want to recycle.

ACT-helm “How is it that other municipalities have been able to have it..350 increase..�

ACT-helm “Were spending over 13 million a year in terms of the cost to dump our debris in a landfill..what happens when that landfill is filled…and we will have to start hauling our trash to lake Okeechobee, because that’s the largest open landfill, that’s a large cost �

There will be a discussion of instituting a universal recycling program in St Pete, this coming Saturday at 10:30am at 2300 Roy Hanna. For more information, call 727- 867-5947.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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