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Safety Harbor sizes up new garbage, recycling program

SAFETY HARBOR — Even though some residents have trash talked the city's new garbage and recycling collection program, the numbers indicate it has been successful.

The city finished implementing the program in September. The amount of trash and recycling collected in the months since then, compared to the amount collected during those same months the previous year, show trash tonnage is down by 20 percent and recycling tonnage has more than doubled.

"We're on pace to save $50,000 in landfill fees next year," City Manager Matt Spoor said. The city also gets paid — albeit a small amount — for the material it recycles, so more recycling means more revenue.

Two features distinguish the program, which is called 1-1-1 for one-day-a-week trash, recycling and yard waste collection, from the city's old method of collecting refuse.

The first is single-stream recycling, meaning all recyclable goods, including glass, can go into one 67-gallon container. The second distinguishing feature is that garbage and recycling collection is down to one day a week from two.

The frequency of pickup is what has resident Greg Soulliere upset.

"I generate a lot of trash, having a family of five, and I fill up that (can) in three or four days," said Soulliere, who praised the recycling portion of the program. "I miss the second trash pickup on Friday in my neighborhood."

Spoor said residents who create a large amount of trash can rent a second 90-gallon trash bin for $16.74 a month. Alternatively, residents can place up to 10 additional trash bags alongside their container each week, which will be collected according to the city's "bulk item" pickup policy, Spoor said.

Soulliere said he takes advantage of bulk pickup and is considering that second trash can, but doesn't have much room in his garage. "It just takes a lot of time to manage your trash, losing that second pickup," he said.

Resident Debbie White said she thinks Soulliere is "an exception rather than a rule." She said, "If (residents) are recycling everything they are supposed to recycle, they shouldn't really have that much garbage."

For Joy-Marie Kaler, the issue is less about how much trash she generates and more about how long it sits in her bin. She said her trash can is frequently infested with maggots from rotting food.

Spoor suggested residents use heavy-duty trash bags and ensure their lids fully close to slow food decomposition and repel animals and insects.

Kaler said she already utilizes those strategies, but "fish is fish, it's going to stink."

White said as long as her lid stays closed, her garage does not smell like trash at all. She said a second pickup day could help with any odor, but she would hardly have any trash for collection that second day.

The execution of 1-1-1 started in February 2013 when the city began distributing new recycling containers to single-family residents. Single-stream recycling pickup commenced in April, but twice-weekly trash and recycling pickup remained until September.

The city had planned to reduce pickup to one day a week in January, Spoor said, but rolled it out in September because residents were essentially electing one-day collection on their own.

"Our (sanitation truck) drivers would drive down the street on the second day and not see a bin," Spoor said.

The city's largest savings associated with 1-1-1 come from the elimination of the separate recycling truck fleet.

Previously, trash and recycling trucks used different lift arms to pick up their respective receptacles. The new recycling bins can be lifted by garbage-truck arms.

Since both bins fit the same truck, the once-per-week pickup schedule allows the city's existing garbage-truck fleet to collect everything. Monday and Tuesday are trash days (the fleet collects one half of the town each day), Wednesday is yard-waste day and Thursday and Friday are recycling days.

The city retired two old recycling-specific trucks and did not have to replace them, saving more than $400,000. Also, trucks that are still on the road made 77 fewer trips to and from the landfill in the last quarter of 2013, translating into fuel savings, fewer emissions and less wear-and-tear on trucks and roads.

With all the savings and the reduction in pickups, some residents are wondering why the $2.77 per month recycling fee has not decreased. Spoor said the fee and the savings have all gone toward buying the new recycling bins for residents.

"We essentially were able to roll out the new single-stream recycling program with the new collection bins at no cost to the residents," Spoor said.

He added that the City Commission will do a six-month evaluation of the program to determine if the fee can be reduced or eliminated.

For the most part, Spoor said, he's heard generally positive reviews of 1-1-1. He said he hopes one day residents will be recycling so much and throwing out so little that the city can switch the 90-gallon trash can and the 64-gallon recycling container.

Josh Solomon can be reached at jsolomon@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155. Find him on Twitter @JSolomonTIMES

Safety Harbor sizes up new garbage, recycling program 02/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 5:15pm]

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