It's time for St. Petersburg to give curbside recycling a fair test. Pinellas County has proposed using money from waste disposal fees to pay for it. Mayor Rick Baker says he wants to discuss it and work with the county on a compromise. Most City Council members also now support a countywide curbside recycling program. So work out the details, develop some measurements to gauge its success and move forward.
St. Petersburg is one of the largest cities in Florida without curbside recycling, and this is at least the third serious public debate in recent years about the issue. At least 21 of the 24 cities in Pinellas already have curbside recycling, and the county's proposal to extend it to the rest without charging an additional fee is worth pursuing.
Baker has environmental credentials. St. Petersburg has developed a number of environmental and alternative energy programs. The city has nearly two dozen city-run recycling facilities, and St. Petersburg residents already recycle significantly more per capita than the national average.
Yet Baker has stubbornly resisted previous efforts to bring curbside recycling to St. Petersburg. His primary reservations, as he describes in a column on the opposite page, have centered on cost and whether the fuel and emission from trucks required for the effort would significantly offset environmental gains. The county's proposal should answer the cost question for St. Petersburg residents, although the mayor has a point that residents should get some credit for the existing recycling efforts. The debate over the environmental concerns could be illuminated by a reasonable trial period for curbside recycling that tracks participation, fuel use and emissions.
City Council member Karl Nurse has offered a compromise that calls for weekly curbside yard waste collection during parts of the year and monthly curbside recycling collection for newspapers and other items. That would be worth exploring. So would more frequent collections that could be phased in by neighborhoods.
The county's proposal has opened the door for curbside recycling in St. Petersburg. The mayor and the City Council should seize the opportunity, work out a reasonable compromise with the county and let residents try it. The results, regardless of how they come out, should be eye-opening.