DADE CITY — An overwhelming number of Pasco residents want weekly curbside recycling, according to a county survey, but nearly half don't want to give up their twice-a-week trash pickups as a trade-off.
The recycling numbers, previewed for county commissioners Monday, just 48 hours after Earth Day, led the board to authorize a pilot program to increase residential recycling.
That effort will offer twice-a-week trash pickups and weekly recycling in a 10,000-home area, the location of which has not been determined. The cost will be $3 a month, and the county will provide the recycling containers. No timetable has been set to begin the program.
Currently, private haulers provide trash and recycling pickup service in the county at a maximum cost of $12.44 per month, plus $1 a month for providing a container.
The survey, conducted Feb. 6 to March 31, received 7,460 responses, 90 percent of whom were Pasco homeowners. Among the findings:
• Sixty-four percent never use Pasco's drop-off recycling locations at schools, fire stations, libraries and parks.
• Fifty-five percent said they use the current twice-a-month curbside recycling service, but 84 percent said they would recycle weekly if it were available.
• Only 51 percent said they would be willing to sacrifice one day of trash collection if the county expanded recycling at no additional cost.
• Likewise, 52 percent said they would be willing pay an additional $2 to $4 per month to maintain twice-weekly trash service and add the weekly recycling pickups.
• Fifty-eight percent said they wanted a recycling container to be provided to them, but they didn't necessarily want to pay for it. Fifty-three percent said they would be unwilling to pay an additional $1 a month to cover the cost of the bin.
Some commissioners said they believe the public eventually will accept once-a-week trash service.
"If they understand how much they put in recycling, they might not need'' twice-weekly trash pickup, said Commissioner Ronald Oakley. "Recycling is going to be a much bigger pickup.''
Commissioner Jack Mariano advocated for a separate pilot program to test weekly recycling and trash service at no extra charge.
"No bad side can come out of this,'' Mariano said.
The survey and proposed pilot program are the next steps in an evolving recycling program as the county seeks to defer a $190 million expansion of its trash-burning plant in Shady Hills. A previous study found more than one-third of the material burned at the incinerator was recyclable paper, cardboard, cans and bottles.
The plant burned 330,000 tons of trash last year, while recycling 4,200 tons. This year, the county expects to recycle 6,800 tons of material, an increase largely attributed to adding paper and cardboard to the curbside recycling program 10 months ago.
The county's solid waste master plan initially called for increasing the recycling number to 48,000 tons by 2030, but the utilities staff has now set a much more ambitious figure to recycle 168,000 tons of material by 2030.
Without a substantial increase in recycling, the county's incinerator will outgrow its capacity and likely need to be expanded in the next seven years. To offset the expense, the staff recommended increasing the county's annual solid waste assessment by $3 and to implement a new solid waste impact fee on newly constructed buildings. The board, meeting in a workshop, did not act on that request.
Recycling advocate Lewis Corvene, 76, of Hudson said in an interview that the recycling program won't be successful until the county makes it mandatory, instead of offering it as an optional service.
"I don't believe once-a-week (pickup of recyclables) is necessary; I really don't. I don't find my container full at the end of two weeks,'' said Corvene. "Maybe, if everybody recycled diligently and every put it out, it might work. I'm a firm believer in recycling, and I preach to my neighbors about it, but people don't want to bother.''