Pasco County is trying to bolster its dismal recycling rate by allowing residents to use their own containers, rather than store-purchased blue bags, for curbside pickup of glass, metal and plastic.
While any chance to upgrade the 2-decade-old program is welcome, commissioners shouldn't be satisfied with this timid approach. Instead, the county should abandon its free-for-all private garbage collection and establish franchise agreements for trash collection and mandatory recycling.
Such a move should translate to cost savings for Pasco households and greater participation in recycling. In Pasco, only 4 percent of the trash collected from single-family homes is recycled. Other nearby counties served by franchised haulers report recycling rates of 30 to 41 percent.
Twice in the past four years, commissioners agreed to seek franchise contracts for trash collection, only to retreat amid lobbying from haulers satisfied with the status quo. On Tuesday, Commissioner Henry Wilson, the commission's leading advocate for better recycling, briefed the board on the looming change from blue bags. He suggested franchising should be again considered if the recycling rate fails to improve.
Wilson is right, but he shouldn't wait. He and the rest of the commission shouldn't ignore the added cost to their constituents from the county's inertia.
Consider the deal approved just three days ago in Hillsborough County. There, the county awarded contracts to three companies for automated trash-collection systems that will reduce the annual cost to households even with the added expense of issuing new standardized containers for trash and recycling materials.
Ditto for neighboring Hernando County. Despite initial complaints about service, nobody grumbled about the price for the 2011 franchise contracts. Residents there pay monthly bills ranging from $6.14 to $7.72 for twice-a-week trash pickup, weekly recycling and twice-monthly disposal of yard waste.
Contrast that to Pasco, which does not designate franchise areas and allows eight haulers to compete for market share. Households here are charged $12.44 monthly for twice-weekly garbage service and twice-monthly pickups of blue bags for recycling.
Exactly why households on the south side of County Line Road should pay twice as much for inferior service as their neighbors across the street in Hernando County is a question commissioners should be willing to answer.
Pasco households shouldn't be financially penalized by their commission's lack of political will to modernize trash collection.