Will St. Pete join with county for curbside recycling?

09/17/08 Seán Kinane
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Pinellas decided last week to move ahead with a plan to offer curbside recycling for all county residents by next year. Despite opposition from the mayor, several St. Petersburg City Council members are trying to get the county’s largest city on board.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has long opposed curbside recycling citing environmental and financial costs. On Monday, St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse wrote a letter to officials from the city and Pinellas County suggesting a compromise.

The city’s internal services administrator Michael Connors told the County Commission last week that curbside recycling damages the environment. He said the collection of yard waste, such as grass clippings and tree branches, would do more to reduce the amount of materials added to landfills. Nurse said his letter included yard waste collection to help get the city to join Pinellas County’s recycling program.

The county’s program would be paid for at least for the next 10 to 15 years by a surplus fund in the solid waste department. There would be no additional cost to county residents. The recycling program would cover every residence in the county. If cities choose to continue existing recycling programs, their net expenses would be reimbursed by the county. Nurse said if St. Petersburg agrees to begin a program, it would have to be compatible with the county’s goals.

In addition to yard waste collection and curbside recycling, Nurse’s letter calls for county funds to be used for mulch delivery to homeowners and an option for city residents to reduce their garbage collection to once per week. The increased recycling and yard waste collection should lead to less waste being buried in landfills, Nurse said.

St. Petersburg is the largest city in Florida that does not have a curbside recycling program. Nurse’s colleague on the City Council, Wengay Newton, said he will bring it up at their meeting on Thursday because curbside recycling “needs to be done.”

Mayor Baker has suggested that it would be a better use of the county’s excess funds to give rebates back to residents and lower the fees the county charges for dumping waste in landfills that generated the excess in the first place. But Newton feels that a curbside recycling program for all residents in the county is a good use of the surplus funds.

Council Member Bill Dudley admitted he has not read Nurse's letter, but said: “Recycling is absolutely the way to go if we can make it work.” Dudley said his main concerns are that curbside recycling be “easy to do and affordable” and environmentally beneficial.

WMNF attempted to speak with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, but he was out of town and not available to be interviewed.

The St. Petersburg City Council will discuss curbside recycling at their meeting Thursday at City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N, beginning at 3 p.m.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

WMNF story on Pinellas County moving forward with curbside recycling

St. Petersburg City Council

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I need REAL answers from Baker

My q's are - use money on what instead? what concrete #'s to show expended gas vs. landfill/resources saved in the very long term (vs. his short term budget agenda)? can't we limit pick-up days to reduce cost/gas impact? recycling is an inevitable fate-why wait?