DUNEDIN — Commissioners on Tuesday gave city staff the green light to push forward with plans to transition to once-weekly trash, bulk and recycling pickup by 2014.
To get things moving, the city in October will roll out a free citywide, "single stream" recycling program to allow residents to grow accustomed to the idea and see for themselves how the additional bin reduces their trash can volume. Twice-weekly trash pickup would continue for a year before it's reduced to once a week.
The goal of the 1:1:1 system is to reduce costs for things like fuel, worker compensation and truck maintenance, as well as to help Pinellas County preserve its landfill, which is anticipated to reach capacity in approximately 2080.
Recycling, officials say, will help residents free up enough trash bin space to allow once-weekly trash collection.
Dunedin and St. Petersburg are the only two of Pinellas County's 24 municipalities not yet offering a citywide curbside recycling program.
"It's something our residents have been asking for for many years," said Dunedin sustainability coordinator Valerie Brown, after presenting the plan to commissioners at a Tuesday morning workshop. "We're finally able to give it to them."
For the past seven years, recycling in Dunedin has been voluntary and subscription-based. Residents pay $2.79 a month plus a $5 one-time fee for the 18-gallon recycling bin, deterring many residents who feel the fees "punish them for doing the right thing," Brown said. The 2,000 participating households are responsible for separating items themselves.
Under the new program, the city's 13,000 residential trash customers will each receive a 65-gallon recycling bin with wheels to accompany their 90-gallon trash barrel. The cost will be rolled into the $17.10 flat fee residents pay each month for trash and bulk pickup, meaning rates will go down for existing recycling customers and new customers get the additional service for free.
An expanded list of accepted recyclables includes all colors of glass, cardboard, milk and juice cartons, and almost all types of plastic containers. The "single stream" option means all recyclable items can be dropped into one bin and don't have to be sorted by the resident.
As people start recycling more at home, Dunedin will eventually phase out the Highlander Park drop-off center. The county's Curlew Road recycling center and Dunedin's Lake Haven Road location would remain.
The city will spend the first year developing a residential pickup schedule and evaluating whether the cost savings are enough to absorb the $1.68 monthly per-customer recycling fee. Brown is "conservatively" estimating that 50 percent of customers will take advantage of the new bins, though the city hopes everyone will jump aboard to help keep recycling costs free.
"If everyone participates, we're saving more money because it decreases disposal costs, which decreases our bottom line," Brown said.
Staff will use the next few months to finalize logistics.
Negotiations continue on a five-year recycling contract with Republic Services of Tampa, which was chosen last month from among three contenders. In addition to residential pickup, the company, which also services Oldsmar, would collect recyclables from city drop-off centers and after city events.
City workers will continue to pick up trash and bulk items.
Dunedin initially had hoped to negotiate a revenue-sharing option that allowed the city to split proceeds, estimated as high as $50 a ton, from the sale of recyclable materials. But Brown said the city decided not to pursue the matter in an effort to keep recycling rates low.
Meanwhile, Dunedin's solid waste division will eliminate a vacant position and sell two obsolete recycling trucks for about $30,000.
The department will pull about $635,000 from its reserves to purchase the recycling barrels for customers. Computer chips in the barrels' handles will allow officials to track participation levels, stolen cans and dormant accounts. It will also increase accountability by tracking actual pickups, rather than relying on manual data entry or on current GPS methods, which log truck location only.
Brown told commissioners that Oct. 1 is a good start date because it's the start of the new fiscal year and also aligns with kids starting school and assisting in outreach by taking literature home to parents.
One by one, city leaders on Tuesday said they were "excited" to finally get the citywide recycling program off the ground. About 2.5 million Floridians across at least 12 counties and three cities are on 1:1:1 programs, Brown said.
"It's an award-winning green city so we need to come on board" with recycling, said Vice Mayor Ron Barnette, adding that he's been experimenting in recent months and noticed a decrease in his trash bin use. "This is an occasion to really shift gears on this and take pride in it."
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.