DUNEDIN — Seven years after starting a voluntary pilot program, city officials are finally pushing forward with plans to launch citywide curbside recycling.
The initiative is part of Dunedin's push to eventually downsize its trash services from a 2:1:1 schedule (twice-a-week trash pickup and once-a-week yard waste and recycling pickup) to a 1:1:1 program.
Officials say once-weekly trash pickup would help cut costs for fuel, truck maintenance, driver salaries and trash disposal fees of $37.50 per ton. Fewer days on the job would also mean less bending and lifting and, thus, reduced risk of injury for workers.
An expanded recycling program would also help the city generate revenue through the sale of recyclable materials at up to $50 per ton.
But first, officials have to make sure residents would be able to make it through the week if their garbage was picked up only once weekly.
"To do that, you have to divert some of that waste, and we want to do that with a recycling bin," said Valerie Brown, sustainability coordinator in Dunedin's Solid Waste Division, "because you're still picking up the same amount of materials.
"It's do we pick it up as trash or do we recycle it?" she said. "We'd rather recycle it and get money back through the sale of recyclables, rather than pay money to dispose of it. It benefits the residents and the environment."
The idea has been a long time in the making for the City Commission, which gave Brown's department the green light earlier this month to start researching recycling program options.
Dunedin launched a voluntary, subscription-based program in January 2004, which so far has attracted about 2,000 of the city's 13,000 households.
But Brown said the cost — $2.79 per month, plus a one-time $5 bin fee — has acted as a deterrent for many residents who feel the fee "punishes them for doing the right thing."
Those residents can take their recyclables to Dunedin's two drop-off locations. But a 1:1:1 program would motivate residents to recycle more to save room in their trash containers, thus saving space in the county landfill, which is expected to reach capacity in approximately 2080, Brown said.
Over the next four to six months, the solid waste department will study the pros, cons and cost savings associated with various recycling methods. They include the following:
• Single stream recycling, a method in which all recyclables are dumped into one container and separated later at a private facility. The upside is that the city could expand its list of recyclable materials and use its existing fleet of collection trucks for recycling as well as trash and yard waste. The downside is that the city might earn less revenue if the purchasers of the recyclables reject them because of cross-contamination.
• Curb sort recycling, under which Dunedin would contract with a private solid waste and recycling company. Dunedin might be able to expand its list of recyclable materials. Also, the costs and risks associated with truck maintenance, employee salaries and worker injury would be reduced. But this option would eliminate the possibility of earning revenue from the sale of recycled materials.
• In-house recycling, which would require Dunedin to expand its staff and vehicle fleet. Under this system, city workers would sort the materials after they were picked up. Also, the city could earn higher revenue from the sale of recyclables than under the single-stream option.
Solid waste division officials say reserves within that department's budget could potentially be used to purchase trucks and recycling containers for any of the three options.
The city is also exploring a "pay-as-you-throw" option for trash that would allow customers to purchase smaller trash barrels and pay only for as much trash service as they use, as with water and electricity. Currently, all customers pay a monthly flat fee of $17.10 for 90-gallon-barrel trash pickups.
The city's renewed focus on recycling especially delights Commissioner Julie Scales, who said earlier this month that she was "embarrassed" about Dunedin's status as one of only two of Pinellas County's 24 municipalities not yet offering a citywide program.
Like Dunedin's, Brown said, St. Petersburg's curbside recycling program is not citywide, but voluntary and subscription-based.
"I think the city has kind of hung back because the county was talking about having a countywide recycling program that the cities would be part of," said Scales. "We finally decided we've waited long enough."
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.