Complaints mount on rollout of St. Pete curbside recycling

Darden Rice says residents and the city need to be flexible.
Darden Rice says residents and the city need to be flexible.
Published June 5, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Council member Darden Rice has pushed for the city to begin universal curbside recycling for years. So, when glitches appeared in the rollout of 80,000-plus containers last month, she counseled residents to be patient.

On Thursday, though, it appeared Rice's patience was running thin as calls and complaints flood in.

Rice called for a council discussion of how the city can achieve better collaboration from residents in the every-other-week pickups when they start at the end of this month.

"I've asked people to be flexible. We have to be the same way," Rice said.

Other council members agreed. Amy Foster said the city's conflicting information has confused residents.

"We really need to have consistent messaging as well as accurate information," Foster said.

Residents of the Old Northeast and Kenwood neighborhoods have complained that the 95-gallon bins are too big for narrow streets and have asked for alley pickups. The city refused, saying its new recycling trucks are too big to navigate the alleys.

Rice said the city might need to rethink that position, even if it means "different truck, different bins."

Ben Kirby, Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman, said the beginning of universal curbside recycling is a "huge shift" for Florida's fifth-largest city and one of the last of any size in the state to adopt the practice.

"It's a big, complex program, and we are doing our best to communicate to all our residents. A lot of people are excited about recycling," Kirby said.

The council agreed to discuss the issue at its June 11 meeting.

Kriseman's advice?

"Let's not overreact and let's give it a chance," Kirby said.