Trash hauling changes ahead

Commissioners consider widening a recycling program and adding fees for the service.

By DAVID DECAMP, Times Staff Writer
Published January 17, 2008

NEW PORT RICHEY - Pasco officials moved closer to a plan Wednesday to include newspapers in the curbside recycling program, increase recycling pickups to once a week - and charge every homeowner for the service.

The proposal would also carve up the county into garbage franchises that would each be served by one hauler. Aside from ensuring everyone has garbage and recycling service, that would reduce garbage truck traffic on neighborhood streets, but homeowners would no longer get to pick their hauler.

After years of keeping calls for a better recycling program at arms' length, the county commissioners informally endorsed the stepped-up program during a workshop Wednesday.

The program would be mandatory in that all homeowners would pay an annual recycling fee with their property taxes, similar to the $62 solid waste assessment for the county waste incinerator. Residents would not be required to recycle, however.

Residents currently pay for recycling pickup every other week if they sign up for curbside trash collection. Those fees would go away under this proposal.

"This is going to escalate the amount of recycling we're going to do," County Commissioner Jack Mariano said.

The county also would allow residents to put all materials - glass, metal, plastic and now newspapers -- in one bin or bag. A private company would sort the goods in this "single stream" system. That is supposed to encourage people to recycle. But it would require a larger recycling center to sort the goods. The current one at the Shady Hills incinerator would be turned into a utilities maintenance building.

The new curbside recycling service could cost residents an extra $2 to $4 a month, assistant county administrator Bruce Kennedy said. The total amount of the annual fee is uncertain, he said, because the county is still calculating other costs for the ramped-up recycling and garbage collection program.

The franchising aspect of the proposal riled some garbage haulers. Instead of allowing companies to sign up customers anywhere in Pasco, the haulers would have to bid to serve any of four regions of the county. Nine haulers have permits to work in Pasco this year.

"I'm kind of in shock in the back here," Bill Peterson, president of Waste-Aid Systems.

To get to this point, the County Commission didn't just let gripes build up - the trash built up, too.

Pasco's Shady Hills incinerator is over capacity, collecting about 50,000 tons of garbage a year beyond what it can burn. The excess waste goes to landfills.

Meanwhile, residential recycling lags behind other counties, although state statistics that include commercial debris rank Pasco high for overall recycling.

Pasco recycles about 4,000 tons a year, but even increasing that rate 10-fold wouldn't eliminate disposal problems involving the incinerator, Kennedy said.

"We really appreciate you considering this proposal," said Monica Dear, president of RESORCE recycling club, echoing other advocates' words to the board.

The commission still has to vote to approve any changes, and board members requested better cost estimates and ways to change the service territories. Another discussion is planned for February.

Haulers, who huddled after the meeting, face a threat to the current system established in 1989. The county sets rates for essential trash pickup - now $11.24 per month - although garbage companies have leeway to add on other charges.

For example, Kennedy said that Waste Management was the only company providing the single stream service - a statement that rankled competitors. A quick Internet search showed various cities have such a service with various companies.

"This single-source system is not unique to Waste Management," said Steve Serafino, who runs Accurate Waste and wants to keep Pasco business.

Kennedy clarified afterward that he meant it was the only provider in the immediate area.

"I don't have any doubt we will have interest from the waste industry," he said.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or 800 333-7505, ext. 6232