The city of St. Petersburg is one step closer to implementing universal curbside recycling.
Thursday, St. Petersburg city council unanimously approved a motion to submit a request for proposal from prospective private contractors. That could mean universal curbside service citywide by mid-September.
"This is an important and historic day," Mayor Rick Kriseman said Thursday. "Everyone in the city should be participating in recycling. It's nice to see the city get on board with the rest of the cities around the state."
The city currently uses a subscription-based system that services only 7,000 homes. Public works administrator Mike Connors recommended the city use single stream containers, meaning one larger 90-95 gallon container for recyclables versus one or two 18-gallon buckets. Recyclables would be picked up once a week, and taken to nearby facilities for sorting.
Connors calculates cost for universal curbside recycling would be an additional $5.20 a month for the city's 76,000 homes (not including multi-family homes, primarily condos and apartments). That $5.20 figure applies only if the city did the program in house. If the city contracts the program through a private company, there would be an estimated $3 increase.
Recycling containers would have small embedded tracking chips that would keep track of recycling information, rewarding customers for good recycling habits and helping drivers map more effective routes. City Councilman Gerdes did ask that they provide legal assurance that information could not be used for any "negative" purposes.
Voicing strong opposition before the vote was former city council candidate Dr. David McKalip, who spoke at the beginning of the meeting.
"This is the outcome of an extremist, leftist, progressive, liberal agenda that is dominating this city government," McKalip told city council.
Also included in the request is a provision requiring recycling workers be hired from the local community and paid "living wages" with quality health care services. That motion was passed in response to several local citizens requests.
"The first goal is to increase recyclable waste, the second is to reduce trash sent to the landfill," said Karen Coale, president of the St. Petersburg League of Women Voters. "Lastly, we want to create quality jobs with livable wages and hire local residents."
Last March, the League of Women Voters released a comprehensive report citing St. Petersburg as the only major city in the state without universal curbside recycling. Since then, Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with city council members Amy Foster and Darden Rice have been elected.
"What a difference one election makes," said Tim Martin smiling, organizer for the People's Trash and the People's Budget Review. Martin says the People's Trash, the grassroots coalition behind the push for curbside, is committed to assisting the city with their public education initiative. That would include education on what can and cannot be recycled.
Right now, the city doesn't have enough funding for the project. But council did pass a motion to reach out to the county for assistance through the county's enterprise fund. Last year, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch said he'd be open to the idea of funding the city's curbside effort through those dollars. Nearly 30 percent, or $65 million, of the county's enterprise fund comes from St. Petersburg residents.
"The city is taking huge steps forward," city councilwoman Darden Rice said Thursday. "This was our city's version of the crazy uncle in the attic. Today is an exciting day."