St. Pete groups ready to lobby officials for improved curbside recycling program

04/16/13 Janelle Irwin
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The city of St. Petersburg doesn’t offer free curbside recycling to residents; some community-based groups are pulling together to change that. The League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg has hired a consultant to look into the feasibility of universal curbside recycling in the city. The group’s president, Karen Coale, announced the results during a press conference in front of City Hall Tuesday morning.

“Curbside recycling is the norm throughout all of the other 49 populated cities in the state of Florida. When cities offer curbside recycling making it easy to do, the amount of recyclable waste raises considerably.”

Coale said she met with four city council members Tuesday asking them to consider revamping the city’s curbside recycling program.

”I think there’s concerns about retrofitting the trucks and stuff like that. So, we just need to sit down and talk about it, but we need to get updated information from them as well.”

Currently, if St. Petersburg residents want curbside recycling, they have to pay an extra $45 per year to have a private company pick it up. A study conducted by the Tampa firm Kessler Consulting calls the city’s system outdated. The League of Women’s Voter’s Coale said implementing universal curbside recycling would be cost effective for the city.

“The municipalities and towns receive back profit of $40-$70 per ton of recyclable waste. It creates local jobs and there is a MRF (Material Recycling Facility) here in St. Petersburg that’s being retrofitted to bring in recyclables from Hillsborough to be sorted here.”

Other groups are joining the push including the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce headed by Chris Steinocher.

”You know, we are proud when we say we are Florida’s first Green City. We are a place where we honor and have always honored our environment and we attract people with that message. I don’t know how you can make the claim of being Florida’s first Green City and not even consider what curbside recycling would do for us all.”

The Council of Neighborhood Associations is on board with universal curbside recycling too. Kurt Donley, CoNA’s president, said people who don’t like the idea don’t have to participate.

“It’s not mandatory. It’s not a nanny state. You’re not being penalized if you don’t do it, but if you’ve got a house, an apartment, you’re living in a condo or you’re one of our favorite mom and pop shops – or a big business for that matter – you should be able to recycle without having to go through an extreme process to do so.”

The argument for improving the city’s curbside recycling program is bigger than just offering it for free. Donley suggested residents and businesses could benefit from better bins too.

“I mean, right now we’ve got these little bins that are opened up – which is fine in the winter but we’re about to come into the rainy season – we all know that’s going to make a mess.”

The Suncoast Sierra Club is also encouraging city officials to start talking about improving recycling. Cathy Harrelson crumpled a plastic water bottle above her head and said only 10% of them end up in recycling bins.

“It’s time to change the equation. Ninety-percent going into the waste stream does not make sense for this country and it certainly doesn’t make sense for St. Petersburg, the green city that we are.”

The League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg along with members of other groups joining the cause, have another meeting scheduled with city council members Wednesday. Both Tampa and Hillsborough County offer curbside recycling to residents as part of their regular solid waste collection.

St. Petersburg recycling report

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