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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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St. Petersburg appears ready to take recycling leap

It appears St. Petersburg is about to shed the stigma of being Florida's only major city without a comprehensive recycling service.

At a meeting last week, St. Petersburg City Council members discussed a proposal by the city's staff to charge $3 a month to every household for curbside recycling.

Households would be given trash bins that could be stuffed with paper, plastic, glass, tin cans and other recyclables and rolled out to the curb once a week.

While the $3 fee would be automatic to every household, participation would be voluntary.

City council members responded with the right mix of support and critical questioning. They want to explore whether the costs can be mitigated, whether the city can provide the service rather than hire a private hauler, and how many new hires associated with providing the service will be from St. Petersburg.

The discussion is a welcome change for St. Petersburg, which has offered curbside pickup only to those households willing to pay an additional $3.75 a month for the privilege of doing the right thing. That program attracted just 7,000 of the city's 76,000 households, leaving much of St. Petersburg's recyclable waste to be trucked to landfills.

The absence of a coherent recycling program became a campaign issue during the 2013 mayoral and city council races, and new Mayor Rick Kriseman is now making good on a pledge to move the city toward more environmentally friendly policies.

Residential surveys about recycling have found the added cost to be a concern. Newly elected council member Darden Rice, one of the candidates last year who made recycling an issue, wants the city's staff to find ways to neutralize the costs, perhaps by bringing the service in-house and finding efficiencies in the existing solid waste services.

Those are the right questions to be asking. Eliminating that $3 fee would go a long way toward winning broad public acceptance.

As with any new program, there remain plenty of details to work out. But last week's discussion indicates the city is well on its way to developing a system that encourages its residents to recycle, rather than putting hurdles before them.

That's good for the city, and good for the environment.

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