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Recycling goes 'round to another meeting
Commissioners will look next month at how to start and pay for a mandatory program.
By DAVID DeCAMP, Times Staff Writer
Published October 10, 2007
DADE CITY - As support uneasily began to jell Tuesday to make recycling mandatory, Pasco County Commissioner Michael Cox urged action on an issue with a history of being brushed aside.
"All due respect, we keep talking about it and we give the staff no direction," Cox said.
Direction came seven minutes later: The board broke for lunch.
At Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand's suggestion, the commission agreed to have a special meeting Nov. 13 in New Port Richey to discuss how to improve recycling. The board lacked enough time Tuesday "to do it justice," she said.
While no vote took place, a majority of the board - Cox and Commissioners Jack Mariano and Pat Mulieri - expressed interest in mandatory recycling if it were done in sections of the county, perhaps starting in dense neighborhoods.
Next month's meeting will explore whether it's possible to overcome obstacles, including cost increases for customers and haulers.
The county also has no mandatory pickup of garbage, meaning there's no requirement to recycle either. Pasco's household recycling rate is 15 percent, a subtle increase after years of falling, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Recycling advocates blame resistant county officials who do not want to raise rates, spend more money or make changes to the current blue bag recycling program. They fault county inaction for several years of delays to improving recycling.
The voluntary program provides recycling pickup, excluding newspapers, twice a month.
County Administrator John Gallagher, an avowed fan of the bags, said he is not opposed to changes. But the county's next move comes down to money and raising public awareness, he said. State funds to promote recycling have dried up, and the county did not make up for it in past years.
He told the board a pilot program last fall in Wesley Chapel showed little difference between the blue bags and the plastic bins popular in other communities.
"In the final analysis, we ended up recycling the same amount with the blue bins as we did with the bags," Gallagher told the board.
But that's not exactly true, although the board balked at switching to bins in May because of the $1-million cost countywide.
The participation rate using bins was 84 percent compared with 46 percent using bags, according to a staff report in February. While non-newspaper recycling was even, 28 tons of newspapers were recycled in bins and bags accounted for less than 15 tons.
After the meeting, Gallagher acknowledged some uncertainty about those details.
"I'm kind of winging it," he said, offering to provide the actual results later.