Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando recycling apathy extends to county, Republic Services

That I recently called Hernando County residents apathetic when it comes to recycling generated very little outrage. Too much apathy, I guess.

But a few people, to their credit, did object.

Some of them doubted that curbside recycling is available to all of the county's solid waste customers — which it definitely is — because they are concerned and well-informed residents and didn't know this fact.

Others said they know it's available, but have had a difficult time getting action from the county's solid waste contractor, Republic Services.

So this gives us a slightly different perspective on the county's miserable record on recycling, which was documented last month in an annual report from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The lowlights of this document, as I wrote before leaving on vacation a few weeks ago, include a finding that Hernando recycles only 25 percent of its solid waste, one-third of the amount the state says the county is supposed to recycle by 2020.

We'd no doubt be closer to that goal if the percentage of households participating in curbside recycling had inched above its current, pathetically low level of 17 percent.

That's apathy, no matter how you look at it. But here's what I've changed my mind about since talking to those frustrated recyclers: It's not just regular people who don't care or do as much as they should.

It's also the county.

It's also Republic.

First of all, you can see how residents might have missed the news that curbside recycling is available even to the half of households outside of the mandatory trash collection area in Spring Hill.

This newspaper reported it when the service became available 2 1/2 years ago, and the county has made some presentations about it to homeowners groups, said Susan Goebel-Canning, the county's director of environmental services.

But she has never seen to it that notices of the service went out with Republic's bills, which would seem like an obvious step.

And though the county's main Web page about trash collection includes a nice, detailed explanation of, for example, how the county deals with the "lechate" at the landfill, the information that anyone can begin using curbside recycling by calling Republic toll-free at 1-800-282-9820 is buried so deeply that I couldn't find it without some dedicated exploration and, ultimately, the help of Goebel-Canning.

The county used to have a full-time recycling coordinator, and Goebel-Canning has asked for money to refill this $34,000-a-year position. That's what's needed to kick-start recycling in Hernando, she said.

Okay, but is a full-time staffer really necessary to take the steps I'm talking about? No. You need one worker, maybe county solid waste guru Scott Harper, to devote a few afternoons to the job.

I called the phone number for Republic, by the way, determined to break my old habit of taking cans, bottles and paper to one of the few remaining recycling centers in the county. I reached a friendly customer service representative who promised that recycling bins would be sent to my home in four to six weeks and that, in the meantime, the company would pick up my recycling if I set it out on a designated morning in plastic grocery bags.

Someone told Lamar Sprouse, who lives in Woodland Waters, the same thing. That was six weeks ago, and he still doesn't have his bins. And Republic has never consistently picked up his recycling, even though he set it out in a cardboard box with the word "recyclables" helpfully written on the side with a Sharpie.

Hazel Morgan, who lives east of Brooksville, is still binless two months after first calling Republic. After several more maddeningly ineffective follow-up calls, she said, "I finally gave up."

I guess I can't blame her. If the county and Republic don't really care, the people won't either.

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