St. Pete's Recycling Woes

He continued to berate me for throwing away my bottles after 9 p.m. Though I remember receiving a mailing that had different hours posted on it, I wasn’t completely positive, so I apologized to the man and left.

As I sped down the street, a truck pulled into the recycling center. I could hear the glass clinking around in his pickup bed.

Dude shouldn't have bought a house next to a recycle center, I thought. If only we had curbside recycling …

I've covered this issue before: St. Petersburg, the state's first "Green City" and the leading contributor of trash to the county landfill, continues to dodge curbside recycling. City officials claim the environmental damage caused by all the recycling trucks would outdo any gains from recycling. And in any case, they add, a 2002 survey found that a majority of residents don't want to pay for the program. (Of course, when asked for the survey, city officials can never produce it.)

Now, in the past, while I’ve disagreed with the city’s stance on this issue, I understood their reluctance to institute a program that might cost taxpayers money with few benefits. Just look at Tampa: that city has curbside recycling and there’s actually been a decline in its use over the years.

So, understandably, I was overjoyed when Pinellas County commissioners suggested they might institute curbside recycling for the whole county, including St. Pete. That way recycling wouldn’t be a money issue. I figured it was a win-win for Baker and the city.

Boy, was I wrong.

Turns out Mayor Baker is against any curbside recycling, even if he doesn’t have to pay for it.

From the Times:

And city officials went as far as saying that Baker is still so dead set against implementing such a program, he ordered his staff to lobby against a countywide recycling effort being discussed by the Pinellas County Commission.

And further down the story are some quotes from one of Baker’s cabinet members, Mike Connors:

When adopting green policies, Baker has two concerns, Connors said.

"Does it makes fiscal sense and does it make environmental sense?" he said.

Curbside recycling does neither, said Connors, adding he plans to pass that message on to county commissioners in a June meeting.

Sending a fleet of trucks around the city to pick up plastic bottles and newspapers would cost the city money and increase pollution, Connors said.

In the comments to that story, some yokel named James adds:

i think that people who are going to recycle will take there [sic] stuff to a drop off site. i don't think that just because they offer pick up it's gonna [sic] make people recycle. kudos to the mayor for seeing wasted spending.

I don’t think that’s the case. Though I’m ashamed to admit it, I didn't recycle my first year here, because I didn’t know where to find a drop-off site. And even now, looking at the beer bottles piling up on my back porch is a test of will; every day, I have to fight a strong urge to throw them in the trash. Instead, after a long day at work, I grudgingly take them to my recycling center. And promptly get yelled at.

In response to the Times article quoted above, Mayor Rick Baker wrote an editorial that appeared in the Neighborhood Times section today. He laid out the same tired arguments about the infamous survey, fiscal responsibility and recycling truck pollution. I just shook my head and threw the article into my makeshift recycling box.

I got a better piece of advice for my angry neighbor: Don’t yell at me. Save your gruff for Mayor Baker and urge him to accept curbside recycling. Then you might not have to deal with us ignorant recyclers smashing glass at 9:30 at night.

(Photo Credit: Aine D)

Last night, I had to recycle something fierce.

I was on vacation in Iowa all last week, and when I came home there was a mound of soda cans, plastic jugs, beer and wine bottles against my back door. (Thanks roomie!) For the rest of Pinellas County, this wouldn’t present a problem: you just carry the items a few feet to the curb.

But, alas, I live in St. Petersburg, where the only thing lacking more than curbside recycling is police officers.

As the last bit of light left the sky, I loaded the recyclables in my car and trucked them to a nearby recycle center at Crescent Lake. I pulled in just as another guy in a red Jeep threw his last beer bottles in a huge green dumpster and left.

I parked and began throwing my own recyclables in. The cans clinked. The paper swooshed. And the beer and wine bottles crashed. Loudly.

As I strolled back to my car, I heard a disembodied voice yelling about "smashing glass." It was dark and I couldn't find the man with my eyes. I called out, "Where are you yelling from?"

"Right here," he replied. I looked behind a dumpster toward the street and spotted him: A hefty, middle-aged man. Despite the lack of light, I knew his face was beet red.

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