The City Council in St. Petersburg, Florida gave approval on Monday, November 24 on final steps needed to launch a universal curbside recycling program: a new ordinance and two multi million-dollar contracts.
The change is an expensive one, but it’s certainly a move in the right direction for the city in terms of recycling and conservation. It will cost the city $4.1 million for new 95-gallon bins and just over $2 million for new trucks that will be used for the program. Residents will be charged $2.95 per month to cover the cost of the pickup program that will roll out next summer.
Starting a program such as this one has been an ongoing discussion for years, and after there have been months of delays, there is little chance that they’ll be going back now. “It’s been a long journey,” council member Karl Nurse said. “It’s kind of cool to be here… It’s the beginning of a cultural shift.”
St. Petersburg currently is one of the only big cities in Florida that does not offer a curbside recycling program to its residents. Under the new plan, 80,000 new homes will get a recycling bin and get their recyclables picked up every other week.
The council chambers were full of supporters Monday evening to hear the official vote of 7-0. A chairwoman of the St. Petersburg Sustainability Council, Cathy Harrelson, said that the onset of this program will begin to build awareness in the community about waste. “When you throw something away, it just doesn’t go away,” she said. “It goes somewhere.”
Tim Martin of the People’s Trash Campaign praised the city for working with the in-house sanitation workers on the recycling collection program. While the program does not currently service apartment complexes and commercial buildings, he and representatives of the League of Women Voters hope the program gets expanded and they pledged to be partners with the city.
While there wasn’t much dwelling on the long road the city has traveled to get to the point of holding the vote, there was still a bit of drama in the air after the final vote was decided.
St. Petersburg had to decide not only to go through with the program, but which company they would contract work with for the recycling. A representative from a company that was not chosen states that he and his company could have offered a better deal, beating the $4.1 million price tag by $40 grand. This raised many questions and concerns with the city staffers.
Sales director for North Carolina-based Toter, Rhet Kelle, said his company would be able to provide better bins for the city’s recycling, which are more sustainable and last longer. The city staffers scoffed at this.
Director Louis Moore said that Kelle’s proposal was submitted late, and not until Monday, when the vetting process was over. Additionally, Moore reviewed what was proposed and said he didn’t think the proposal would meet the city needs.
“We have done our due diligence,” Moore said. “Anybody can walk through that door and say we can beat that price.”
Public Works Administrator Mike Connors said Toter’s last-minute claims made the city staffers uncomfortable. He called it a simple “poor business practice.” “At the ninth hour to hear this type of offer is frankly inappropriate,” he said.
Mayor Rick Kriseman stated that one of the early goals for the city is for the administration to simply to move forward with the plan. This is now possible with the approval of the recycling program. With the approval now in place, the administration can move forward with the program, which Mayor Rick Kriseman identified as one of his main early goals for the city.
There has been $350,000 set aside to ensure success of the program. This includes marketing, communication and educating the residents about the program and how it will work. Council member Darden rice wants there to be more discussion about how the money will be spent, and the other members agreed.
“The citizens are going to be an important part in making this successful,” she said. “I think our work has just begun.”