As local governments across the state consider reduced services or higher tax rates to close multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls, city of Brooksville residents are about to receive a rarity: something for nothing.
The service is curbside recycling, and the cost of the bags is covered by Wal-Mart, a savings to the public of up to $400,000. The city's Sanitation Department will run the routes simultaneously with its regularly scheduled pickup of yard waste, effectively eliminating, at least initially, overhead expenses.
The public-private partnership is laudable, particularly because it comes at a time of local governments' cash crunch and a rapidly filling county landfill that is under expansion. Case in point, Hernando County killed the idea of raising its annual solid waste assessment of $63, but other changes are possible, including privatizing the recycling center operations, eliminating the subsidy for Spring Hill's curbside recycling and charging to use two convenience centers. Now is an appropriate time to try to keep waste out of the landfill.
Besides the economic benefit, the push by the city to be more environmentally friendly is a sensible policy. Curbside recycling of glass, plastic, newspaper and cardboard is currently inaccessible within the city, and its availability elsewhere in Hernando County hasn't been met with overwhelming enthusiasm.
The most recent data available from the state Department of Environmental Protection shows only one in five Hernando County residents participates in recycling — less than half the statewide average of 45 percent. Hernando County provides curbside recycling to 38,000 residences in Spring Hill — roughly half of the single-family homes in the county — but fewer than 17,000 participate, according to the 2007 figures.
It is an imperative point. For the program to be successful, the city of Brooksville will need a comprehensive public education campaign for its residents, particularly because some varieties of recyclable material will be picked up just once a month.
The curbside recycling in Brooksville is a voluntary program, but we encourage public participation when it begins in September. Recycling extends the supply of natural resources, reduces litter, preserves landfill space and promotes energy conservation. One of the leading excuses for not recycling is inconvenience. Who wants to waste gasoline driving stuff to a recycling bin?
Kudos to Wal-Mart and the city for eliminating that rationalization. There is nothing easier than dropping recyclable materials at the curb outside your house.