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Capitol casting its eyes on recycling

Recycling bins are well away from travelers in a nonpublic area at Tampa International Airport on Tuesday.

CARRIE PRATT | Times

Recycling bins are well away from travelers in a nonpublic area at Tampa International Airport on Tuesday.

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Capitol buzzes about bio­fuels and climate change, but two Pinellas County lawmakers just want the state to do a better job taking out the trash.

Republican Sen. Dennis Jones and Democratic Rep. Janet Long want to require public airports, state vendors, public universities and state agencies to recycle.

While green politics is selling well of late, will something as unsexy as separating glass and plastic pass muster?

Gov. Charlie Crist thinks it should. "I believe in recycling. I think it's a great idea," Crist said Monday of the bill.

But business lobbyists are worried the plan — which will specifically require recycling of aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles — will cost too much. They want the bill (SB 692/HB 301) changed to require recycling only when it's economically viable. Without those changes, lobbyists say, the bill faces trouble.

"It's 50-50," said Keyna Cory, a lobbyist for Associated Industries and Florida's solid waste companies, which support more recycling but don't want specific recycling laws.

The House Environmental Protection Committee will consider the proposal today. And while one Senate committee approved it unanimously earlier this month, it still has three more committees to go. Jones believes there's plenty of time for that.

Jones and Long, both from Seminole, said they don't want to weaken the bill, whose co-sponsors include Reps. Ed Homan, R-Temple Terrace, and Rick Kriseman, R-St. Petersburg.

Jones said he pursued it after reading about how much material goes to waste from airports. In December 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported airlines throw away enough aluminum cans to build 58 747 jetliners each year.

"This is really going to help," Jones said.

Tampa International Airport has an internal recycling program for employees. But the airport attracts 100,000 people a day, meaning a huge change would have to occur.

An informal survey in December showed 30 percent of 60 or so tenants had recycling programs, spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan said.

"Who's going to collect and store it?" Geoghagan asked.

Lobbyist Jack Cory, who represents nonprofit programs for youths and is married to Keyna, said small organizations could be forced to carry out recycling tasks they lack the resources to meet.

Meanwhile, recycling in Florida can differ from place to place. St. Petersburg is one of the few major cities in Florida without curbside recycling pickup, for example. Glass commands different prices than cans. In some cases, the fuel needed to collect the materials could eclipse the revenue from recycling, Keyna Cory said.

Long, however, said businesses fret unnecessarily. There's no enforcement penalties in the bill, and the market for recycling has grown. The businesses would get to keep money from the sale of recyclables.

"Why are they against it?" Crist said. "They should be doing it anyway."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Capitol casting its eyes on recycling 03/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 8:14pm]
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