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Clearwater leaders vote today on expanding single-stream recycling

CLEARWATER — When the city rolled out bigger, more ergonomic recycling bins last year, they were available in just five neighborhoods.

Since February 2012, the 64-gallon wheeled carts have been part of a single-stream recycling pilot program in Grovewood, Island Estates, Navajo Park, Plaza Park and Tropic Hills.

Today, the City Council will decide whether to spend $1.5 million to introduce 26,000 of the carts citywide.

The blue, wheeled carts are three times larger than the small yellow bins used elsewhere in the city. Unlike the bins, they're closed on top. And they're outfitted with computer chips that could help the city collect data about their use.

In addition, residents with the new bins would be able to recycle cardboard and all types of paper and plastic without having to sort.

"The reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive" in the pilot neighborhoods, said Earl Gloster, Clearwater's director of solid waste and general services.

Frank Dame, 66, of Island Estates, has noticed widespread support for the new carts.

"I'm seeing it as I walk my dog. A lot of my neighbors are using the new bins versus the old ones," he said. "I think it's great."

The city saw 50 percent recycling participation in the targeted neighborhoods, which yielded a 50 percent increase in recyclables collected.

And that meant increased revenue.

Clearwater earned $600,000 last year selling recycled goods. In comparison, the city must spend $37.50 a ton to haul trash to the Pinellas County waste-to-energy facility.

"We're hopeful to eventually get over that $1 million mark," Gloster said, recalling 2007, when the city earned an all-time high selling recyclables.

City households currently pay $2.35 a year for recycling services, but only about half use the service.

To increase participation, Gloster plans to expand community outreach to schools and neighborhood organizations.

"We need to tell people what we're doing, why we're doing it and how it's going to benefit the city," he said.

"We really want to make a splash."

Matt McKinney can be reached at or (727) 445-4156. To write a letter to the editor, go to