CLEARWATER — The wait for a countywide curbside recycling program just got longer.
Pinellas County commissioners agreed Tuesday to again stall their review of a plan to introduce curbside recycling in the unincorporated parts of Pinellas County until January. It's the latest delay to a service that was slated to begin this January.
"I know when to fight the battles and when to go with the flow," said a frustrated Ken Welch, a commissioner who supports the county providing curbside recycling.
Yet even recycling advocates said they saw encouraging signs in the delay.
County Administrator Bob LaSala is now proposing a more comprehensive recycling program that collects not just from homes, but also from businesses. That's a substantial shift in the county's recycling ambitions. More than half of the county's materials that could be recycled are thrown away by industry, according to Tom Crandall, the county's director of utilities.
"Commercial may be the most difficult, but it's the most rewarding," Crandall told commissioners Tuesday. "It's a big market there."
Including businesses also will help the county meet a new state mandate proposed by a bill that awaits the governor's signature. It calls for counties to collect and process 75 percent of recycled material — cardboard, glass, plastics, newspapers — by 2020.
Meeting that goal would take a massive effort, and commissioners must decide the best way to approach it. They are split on whether the recycling contract should be linked to solid waste collection, so that one hauler picks up both.
Staff will now develop a plan that combines trash pickup with curbside recycling, and one that doesn't. Commissioners will review the plans in January and decide which works best. If they approve recycling then, it could start in January 2013.
Out of 24 cities in Pinellas County, 23 cities have curbside recycling. The one municipal holdout — St. Petersburg — approved a voluntary curbside program last month.
But efforts to introduce curbside recycling in the unincorporated parts of the county, the largest in Florida without it, have been rife with delays and false starts. It looked like a lock in 2007 when commissioners agreed to pursue a curbside program paid for by a surplus in landfill tipping fees and power sold from the incinerator.
The plan was to cost $10 million to $12 million a year, according to Bob Hauser, Pinellas' director of solid waste. After months of study and discussion, bids were sought in the fall with a targeted start date of Jan. 1.
But in October, the request for bids was yanked after new commissioners on the board, Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield, questioned spending that much on recycling. Another complication was the county planned to start trash pickup. Commissioners felt it was best to combine the two, reversing a decision they made in 2007 to make keep them separate.
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at email@example.com.