St. Pete City Council expands residential curbside recycling

02/21/14 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: Darden Rice, curbside recycling, St. Pete City Council, St. Pete, recycling

photo by Sean Kinane, WMNF News 2012

Many St. Petersburg residents will soon have access to curbside recycling. City Council voted unanimously Thursday to support new Mayor Rick Kriseman’s initiative to start a search for a company to provide the service. It would also include a local hiring and living wage stipulation. The issue has been pushed heavily by city council member Darden Rice even before her election.

It could be implemented as soon as seveb months from now, but could take longer. The program will replace the current optional recycling that costs $3.75 per month. Those using the service have small blue bins with no lids or wheels.

"Yesterday is definitely a victory because it's the first time in years that City Hall has seriously moved plans forward to look at implementing what we call 'single stream universal curb-side recycling' for residential. The past 15 years or so we've had mayors () for whatever reason or another didn't support it and it was unusual because St. Pete was the only major city in Florida not to have this type of basic service. Yesterday's victory really reflects the leadership of the new administration under Mayor Kriseman, reflects new city council members including myself, who bring a lot of experience and sensibility to this issue and it was a victory for our community partners, The People's Trash and the League of Women Voters who have been working on this issue for a long time."

Why was it that this was such a contentious issue during the previous administration but yet passed so easily this time around now that we have some new folks in City Hall?

"It's hard to speculate. It's always been a political issue, in my opinion. This is a policy that could always be enacted with the stroke of the mayor's pen. And for one reason or another I can't really comment on why Mayor Baker was so against it. Mayor Foster it kind of moved slowly under his watch but there wasn't a lot of excitement. I think with Mayor Kriseman, the new mayor who has the rudder in the water, clear leadership and some clear commitments to sustainable policies and getting St. Pete caught up. It's also exciting that what we voted on last night included a living wage ordinance and benefits and to make sure that we're hiring locally and that those stipulations are included in the RSP."

This will come with a small fee that will be added on to rate payers bills, about 3 dollars a month. Tell me a little bit about what that's going to be buying.

"Sure. Well we're trying to knock down that fee and we'll know more when we actually start to get the RSP's back and have some numbers to look at on the table. It's certainly my commitment to do this without just pushing fees back to the ratepayers. I do think there's a lot of strategies and things that we can look at to knock that fee down. What people will be getting will be getting will be curbside recycling as part of the normal everyday trash pickup services. Once a week, at the curb and we're looking at bins that will be a little bit nicer. They'll be 90 gallon bins with wheels."

There has been a small amount of pushback on this issue. Particularly from your former opponent David McKalip, I believe he called the program a utopian view that you all are trying to force on the residents. What do you say to that?

"Guilty as charged."

Besides guilty as charged?

"You know these anti-tax troubadours it's the same song and dance wherever they go. I've been hearing this from them for years. It's the same level of paranoia, it's the same generic argument against anything that we try to do to benefit the city. I do take concerns about costs very seriously and we are looking very seriously to knock these fees down. At the same time it is my responsibility as a public official to make sure that we're providing the best services, that we are doing everything we can to make sure that recoverable materials aren't just going into the landfill or getting burned when we have a better economic process, being recycled or upcycled."

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FINALLY! When CWA did a survey of residents they clearly indicated that wanted it -- took a change over of the City Council to make it happen! Good job!