Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Garbage committee focuses on recycling improvements

ISLAMORADA -- The new garbage collection contract that the village must enter into before the end of September should use financial incentives and penalties to encourage residences to recycle and make recycling mandatory for businesses.

Those are the among the suggestions of the ad-hoc solid waste committee empaneled by the Village Council this winter to weigh in on the town's garbage services before the contract procurement process gets under way.

"I think we have to begin to consider the environment in a serious way," said former Councilman Don Achenberg, who sits on the committee. "We have to do more than pay lip service to what needs to be done."

At present, Advanced Disposal Systems, which acquired the former village garbage contractor Veolia in November, provides garbage, recycling and solid waste collection in Islamorada under a contract that costs the village roughly $3.1 million annually.

The Village Council has said it plans to put the contract out for bid before it expires on Sept. 30, though council members could also choose to negotiate an extension with Advanced Disposal.

In its nine-page report, which is to be submitted to the council by Feb. 15, the ad-hoc committee focused most of its attention on recycling. The state is mandating recycling rates of 75 percent by 2020, but with just seven years to make that happen, the village has a recycling rate that hovers in the low teens, according to the committee.

This year, village residences paid a garbage assessment of $388. For that fee, residences receive pick-ups of an unlimited amount of garbage twice per week and one pick-up per week of an unlimited amount of recycling. Residences also receive yard waste and on-call bulk pick-up service.

The committee suggests that in the village's next solid waste contract garbage collection be limited to 96 gallons twice per week, with an additional fee for larger quantities. After three years, the committee suggests, the penalty-free cap should be reduced to 64 gallons twice per week. Meanwhile, residences would face no extra fees no matter how much recycling they put out for the weekly pick-up.

To accomplish this change, the solid waste committee suggests that the village switch to an automated pick-up system, in which garbage trucks are equipped with a robotic arm that gathers trash bins. Each village residence would get one 96-gallon bin for garbage and as many 64-gallon recycle bins as requested. Residences that need additional garbage bins would be charged an extra annual fee.

Beginning in 2016, the recycle bins and the garbage bins would be relabeled with the larger containers becoming the recycle bin. The extra fee would apply for those who need extra 64-gallon garbage bins.

The committee report doesn't suggest how much the penalty should be for residences that must obtain extra garbage bins. But it does take a stab at some of the figures related to its recommendation.

Switching over to the standardized bins would cost approximately $80 per container, the report says. Robotic arms would cost $58,000 per truck, or a total of approximately $350,000 for the fleet.

On the flip side, said committee Chairman Dave Boerner, the new system, by increasing the village recycling rate, would also bring sizeable savings. In addition, automating the trucks would allow them to be operated by one person rather than three, also leading to savings.

The report also states that in order for a contractor to justify investing in the new trash and recycle bins, they might need more than the five-year contract term the village is currently operating under with Advanced Disposal. Ultimately, the cost of the proposed program will become clear during the bid process or contract negotiations, Boerner said.

The ad-hoc committee didn't just limit its recycling proposals to residences. In fact, its proposals aimed at making more businesses recycle that could generate the most discussion.

The committee is recommending the imposition of a mandatory commercial recycling program modeled after one that has been in effect in southwest Florida's Lee County since 2008. Under the program, businesses would be required to recycle all eligible materials or pay an opt-out fee of $100 to $500 per month.

Businesses that don't opt out would be required to maintain records and receipts of their disposal bills for evidence of compliance. Fees from the opt-out businesses, along with a small portion of the franchise fee paid by the village garbage contractor, would be used to hire an employee to monitor the compliance program. A proposed licensing fee for independent recyclers operating in the village could also help fund the position.

Though the commercial program would involve more government regulation, Achenberg said it is necessary.

"I think it is time that every community take a more responsible stand on recycling and it is time for Islamorada do that," he said.

The committee will make a formal verbal presentation on the proposals at the Feb. 28 Village Council meeting. The report is slated to be available on the village website on Feb. 15, Boerner said.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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