The progressives now in charge of the City of St. Petersburg’s government plan to implement a mandatory recycling program as soon as possible. The City will have to spend millions to purchase large rolling recycling bins, place them at each residents home and then transport, sort and empty them. That means an increase in garbage bills, draining city reserve funds or moving other city funds into the program. In other words, that means the citizens pay more for a program that only about 10% of people now do voluntarily for the very cheap price of less than $4 per month. The city of Dunedin implemented a mandatory recycling program in January 2013 and ever since has had to drain reserve funds to pay for the program. The major drain on the Dunedin budget serves as a warning for the much larger city of St. Petersburg as its citizens prepare for an unwanted “universal” recycling program. Dunedin has spent an additional $1.2 million from city savings accounts to pay for the recycling program.
The City of Dunedin in Northwest Pinellas County contains roughly 35,000 people and has a city government with a budget of about $71 million in 2013. By contrast the City of St. Petersburg has about 242,000 residents with annual budget of about $468 million in 2012. In 2012, Dunedin spent $650,000 to purchase rolling 65 gallon recycling bins to sit next to the 90 gallon rolling cans of solid waste customers. Customers currently enjoy garbage pickup twice per week, but the city commission is considering once per week garbage pickups – most likely to save money. The solid waste department’s budget for 2013 was about $5 million in expenditures. There is significant need to save money since, according the administrators of the Solid waste department, the city had to dip into a sanitation reserve fund to find an extra $223,000 in funds for 2013 to make ends meet. The city plans to grab $350,000 in 2014 for this purpose. The city pays $262,000 annually to Republic Services of Tampa to haul away the recycling and does not take any profits from the recycled materials themselves to keep overall cost as low as possible. The carts even have RFID (radio frequency) ID chips in them to track amount of recycling per individual customer to allow the city to engage in “targeted outreach” to increase participation(more here).
Dunedin citizens currently spend $17.10 per month for solid waste services and the recycling program did not raise that fee. However, page a-48 of the 2013-2014 Dunedin city budget clearly stated that the recycling program could not survive without dipping into reserves and it was the only way to keep rates down. The budget summary clearly stated that the reserves would be used “to bridge funding gaps until the final services structure is determined…[to] ensure[s], at the end of the process, that the appropriate rates are in place to fund the service levels.” Thus it is clear that a rate increase will be required in about two to three years to keep the sanitation reserve funds at legal levels around $330,000 in case something happens like a garbage truck breaking down. The City of St. Petersburg currently charges $22.13 per month, a rate that has escalated substantially since 2006, producing a $6.3 million reserve surplus (total $12.3 million). The city of St. Petersburg collected an extra $19.1 million in sanitation fees than it spent since 2006 on overpriced garbage bills. That money will be the down payment to give the illusion of a “no cost” recycling plan. The reserves won’t be used for driving down inflated garbage bills for the already over-taxed St. Petersburg citizenry.
There is simply no way to do the extra work to collect 65 gallons of recycling, sort it, and make it ready for resale without spending more money. As the Dunedin experiment shows, mandatory universal recycling in St. Petersburg will cost taxpayers more, force them to do more work than they want to at home, endanger their once per week garbage pickup and even lead the government to monitor how much trash they each recycle so they can target individuals for “reeducation”! Citizens of St. Petersburg should make it clear to their new government: No to mandatory universal recycling.