OLDSMAR — More Oldsmar residents are embracing curbside recycling.
Early this year, Oldsmar kicked off its new "single stream" system that commingles all recyclables so residents don't have to do their own sorting. And so far, participation has doubled, according to city staff.
"It's doing better than we expected," said assistant public works director Bob Cyr.
Previously, 32 to 36 percent of single-family households participated in curbside recycling. As of last month, 70 to 75 percent were taking part.
The new program, run by Republic Services, seems to be thriving, while some other local recycling efforts are struggling.
Two weeks ago, for example, the Tampa Bay Times reported that St. Petersburg's first attempt at curbside recycling had failed. The city's contractor only got about 10 percent of single-family homes to sign up.
Cyr thinks he knows why Oldsmar's program has been a hit so far.
"We made it real convenient for our residents," Cyr said.
First, the city made sure all of Oldsmar's approximately 4,200 single-family homes had a 35-gallon rolling recycling cart. That means residents can toss all of their recyclables inside and wheel their big blue carts to the curb.
Before, when the city handled recycling itself, residents had to organize a limited selection of allowable recyclables into an 18-gallon bin and lug it to the curb.
Not only are more households recycling in Oldsmar, people want to recycle even more items, Cyr said. The city received between 75 and 100 calls from people who wanted larger recycling containers.
Households pay about $16.25 a month for trash collection, which includes recycling, he said.
Republic keeps the proceeds from recyclables. But in the long run, officials expect to save money on trash collection. Every ton of trash that's removed from the waste stream saves about $37.50, Cyr said.
The city is also collecting more types of recyclables than it did before, including cardboard, glass and more varieties of plastic. That makes the process more productive and more satisfying, said City Council member Linda Norris,
"I recycle probably three-fourths of my trash," she said.
And for the first time, Oldsmar is expanding its recycling program to include multifamily complexes, Cyr said.
Around eight or nine complexes, including a couple of hotels, are participating, he said, and Republic plans to bring others on board.
Other cities are also trying to boost participation by initiating a single stream recycling program.
Earlier this year, Clearwater officials rolled out a pilot program for a select group of five neighborhoods. And last month, Dunedin decided to try a citywide program starting in October.
So far, Clearwater's pilot program has been quite a success, said Earl Gloster, the city's director of solid waste and general services.
"We've seen a considerable bump in the volume of recycling and a bump in the amount of people that are recycling," Gloster said.
In the pilot group, there's been an increase of about 15 percent in neighborhoods that traditionally recycled less and an increase of about 30 percent in areas with better participation, he said.
"We're planning to put things in place to take it citywide," Gloster said.
Clearwater expects to start phasing in the program sometime next year.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155. Go to tampabay.com/letters to write a letter to the editor.