DUNEDIN — Seven months after the launch of a citywide single-stream recycling program, city officials say high participation is paving the way for a transition to once-weekly trash pickup.
For years, residents who wanted to recycle had to pay a monthly fee to participate in a voluntary program and sort their recyclables.
Then in October, the city spent $635,000 on new recycling bins for 13,000 households and contracted with Republic Services of Tampa to empty the 65-gallon rolling carts. The city expanded its list of recyclable items, which can now be dropped into a single bin rather than sorted.
According to solid waste department figures:
•77 percent of households are participating either each week, every other week or once a month. That's up from 2,000, or 15 percent of households that had participated under the voluntary fee-based recycling program.
•As a result of increased recycling, city garbage trucks have collected 1,900 fewer tons of trash than during the same seven-month time frame last year — translating to 100 fewer trips to the Pinellas County landfill, the use of 23 percent less fuel, and less wear and tear on the city vehicles.
•When personnel, equipment and maintenance costs are considered, officials estimate Dunedin since October has saved nearly $236,600 — or $33,800 a month — by outsourcing recycling services.
Waste department officials told the City Commission last week that they want to continue collecting local data. They also want to collect data from Ocala, which immediately launched once-weekly trash pickup while rolling out single-stream recycling late last year, and Lakeland, which charges different rates based on three varying trash can sizes through a "pay to throw" program.
For now, officials want to maintain Dunedin's twice-a-week trash pickup and continue an education campaign to encourage residents to increase their recycling.
"There's a future cost savings, and we feel that that would come with examining the possibility of going to once-a-week trash," director William Pickrum said. "That study is to come, we hope, next year."
City commissioners praised the program's success, but several said they want to launch once-weekly trash, bulk and recycling pickup (informally called 1:1:1) sooner rather than later — maybe by January.
"Let's not wait too, too long," said Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, "because I really think once we give people a full year to digest this, going to the 1:1:1 will push the rest who are slow comers, so to speak."
In other action:
The city will spend $482,000 on a replacement boardwalk and docks, new tie-rods, repaving and other improvements to the north, east and south seawalls at the Dunedin Marina.
Public Works director Doug Hutchens said at least part of the leaning seawall is "structurally failing." Mayor Dave Eggers said the project is aimed at saving the seawall, which Commissioner Julie Scales said she believed may be the original one installed as many as 50 years ago.
Work is expected to begin in July and wrap up by the end of the year. West seawall repair was rescheduled for the 2014 budget year, after bids came in too high last fall.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or email@example.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.