GULFPORT — The city has a brand new recycling truck and the public works director, Don Sopak, has big plans for it.
All he has to do is get the City Council to go along with his proposal at its meeting next week.
Looking at the next council meeting on Oct. 5, Sopak said he will propose expanding the city's curbside recycling program to include all plastics, metal cans and jar lids, junk mail and magazines, white and colored paper, brown paper bags and cardboard.
Those items would be added to the items the city is already picking up: newspaper, some plastics and aluminum.
And, Sopak says, he can do it without raising the rates. Residents pay $1.50 a month, except those living in Gulf Shores. They pay $0.95 a month.
Sopak's plan is following one anticipated by the council when it ordered the new recycling truck for $194,000 last November.
However, while the city waited the nine months it took to have the truck delivered, some council representatives suggested the city might be better off — able to get more items recycled — by selling the truck and turning the program over to an outside firm.
But Sopak said he is confident his plan will win them over.
"The outside firms would cost more … and we had this brand-new truck. I figured out a way to pick up the same things and to save cost," Sopak said.
"We've been running our own program for 16 years and it has been very successful. Our residents like what we are doing and having our own program. It just had to be modified so we could collect more," he said.
The only item that won't be picked up curbside is glass. Glass, Sopak said, is the most difficult item to find a wholesaler to buy.
But he has a solution for that, too.
Sopak said he will propose using some of the annual grant money for recycling the city receives from the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste Operations to purchase a receptacle for all colors of glass that will be placed somewhere in the city. The city will then have the glass trucked to a glass recycling center in Sarasota.
The city's recycling program makes some money, but the amount varies, depending on the market for recyclables, Sopak said.
Council member Michele King, perhaps the biggest proponent of looking at outside haulers, said she would be agreeable to keeping it in the city if the program were expanded.
"I just want to recycle more. It makes sense to recycle as much as possible," King said.
About 1,300 homes, or 32 percent of Gulfport's population, recycle, Sopak said. The city will work hard to increase those numbers by educating people through programs and fliers on the benefits of recycling.
The expanded program will start in November if approved by the council.