St. Pete won't expand recycling to apartments and condos for now
Falling prices for recyclables and limited processing capacity has stalled St. Petersburg's efforts to expand recycling to the city's 46,000 apartments ands condos, officials told the City Council on Thursday.
A pilot project for 21 complexes is on hold after the city's recycling processor, Progressive, told the city that low prices and limited capacity would make it cost prohibitive under the city's current contract to add apartments and condos to a program that debuted for single-family homes last June.
Thursday's news was the latest bump in the city's recycling efforts. Last summer, anger over the city's initial refusal to pick up the 95-gallon bins in the alleys led to a policy reversal by Mayor Rick Kriseman and contributed to the abrupt departure of longtime Public Works Administrator Mike Connors.
Neighborhood Affairs Administrator Mike Dove said that falling prices for recycables is a major factor in the city's inability to expand the option beyond single-family homes.
"Revenue has gone down substantially for recycling material," Dove told the Budget, Finance and Taxation Committee.
Low oil prices, a strong dollar and a weakening Chineses economy have contributed to the recycling crunch nationwide. The market isn't likely to change much in the next few years, said Sanitation Director Ben Shirley.
The news disappointed council members, but it wasn't unexpected.
"I'd been anticipating this looking at the market," said Darden Rice, who led the push for curbside recycling. "I think it's the right thing to. We can plan and prepare and have a program ready to go when the markets improve."
St. Petersburg was the last major city in Florida to adopt universal curbside recycling. So far, the latest participation rates show about 52 percent of single-family homes are taking part in the program. The city would like to eventually see 65 percent of its residents recycling, Dove said.
The situation remains fluid. Progressive might expand capacity in Hillsborough County in the coming months, which would create more room at its Pinellas County facility. And the volatile recycling markets could rebound.
"We're all disappointed," said Karen Coale of the League of Women Voters, the organization who pushed for the city to finally adopt recycling. "But markets can go up as fast as they can do down."