Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Trash pickup down to once a week
New schedule, meant to boost recycling, starts Monday

Starting Monday, Key West residents will test drive those brand spanking new blue 65-gallon recycling carts recently added to the island's landscape.

The blue carts, meant as a match for the dark green trash carts, have lids that offer privacy, no longer exposing that weekend party's empties to the whole neighborhood.

Colored "Pepsi blue," as the manufacturer calls it, the new recycling carts can swallow their lid-less predecessors if residents choose not to keep them, city staff has pointed out.

In fact, anyone who wants to get rid of their old 18-gallon plastic tubs can simply fill them up with recyclables and place them inside the new blue containers, said city spokeswoman Alyson Crean.

"And they will get recycled," she said.

Key West has been sliced into five zones for trash and recycling collection, with Monday reserved for a piece of Old Town bordered by Truman Avenue and Whitehead and White streets.

The city sunk $632,000 into the 13,000 wheeled carts, as the manufacturer calls them, and into the belief that Key West will dramatically raise its dismal recycling rate, which hovers around 7 percent.

As part of the new trash pickup plan, though, residents will get only one day a week to kick their garbage, yard waste and recycling to the curb, not the two days a week Key West has grown accustomed to over the years.

"The city's ready; I'm not sure if residents are," said City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley. "I'm getting some concerns, but I tell people, 'Look, if this doesn't work we can always change it. But let's give it a chance.' I'm sure some people would like it picked up every day."

In exchange, the new pickup plan will switch the island's yard waste destination from the incinerator to the composting shed.

Everything still gets trucked off to the mainland, after first going through the sorting process at the transfer station on Rockland Key.

The Florida Keys have no open landfills and no incinerators.

But yard waste won't be put on the burning pile, as long as it is bundled up in its own containers. The city only supplies trash and recycling carts; residents must buy their own yard waste containers, as plastic bags on their own will not be accepted.

Yard waste makes up 27 percent of Key West's residential trash stream, but the new pickup schedule will mean it, too, can be recycled. It must be free of garbage and food waste, the city points out in the brochure dropped off inside every blue cart.

Residents may place as much recycling and yard waste out as they want, providing they clearly label it to ensure it gets to the correct section at the transfer station.

Skeptics across Key West, including City Commissioner Mark Rossi, have worried that having to dial down trash pickup from twice weekly to a sole opportunity every seven days will cause a stink in a town that loves seafood.

City staff is behind the recycling push and once a week pickup, not Waste Management Inc., which holds the lucrative annual contract with Key West.

"If it doesn't work, we're not bound to stay with it," City Manager Bob Vitas told commissioners in June. "We won't know until we try it."

But one 20-year resident known for her hard-core pro-recycling stance says to keep calm and give the city's plan a chance.

"I'm very much willing to take a little inconveniences for the sake of the island, to take care of it," said Erika Biddle, a veteran activist for Florida Keys Green Living and Energy Education (GLEE). "It's not always easy to do the right thing. If you start consciously recycling, you will have less trash than you have recycling. Everybody says they love Key West, but do they really?"

Rossi and fellow Commissioner Billy Wardlow, however, have said on the dais at Old City Hall that the idea of week-old fish in locals' trash bins is a little scary.

"With this heat in the middle of summer, you're just asking for a lot of trouble," Rossi told Utilities Manager Jay Gewin on June 4. "I'm going to be honest with you, I just don't see it."

Recycling Coordinator Will Thompson says he has tested the week-old trash theory at his home only to find that a little deodorizer, dryer sheets or "odor-control" trash bags takes care of any smell.

Also, sealing up bags tightly and keeping lids on goes a long way, Thompson said.

Mayor Craig Cates, in response to the imagined fears of stench as a result of the new program, has pleaded for people to try it out and see what happens.

"One week is nothing," Biddle added. "You put the lid on it."

Key West has "single-stream" recycling, which means sorting items isn't necessary. When in doubt about whether something can be recycled, city staff says, just throw it in.

Plastic bags and Styrofoam won't work, though -- the city's brochure reminds locals to return those to local supermarkets.

On the recycle list are newspapers and inserts, phone books, catalogs, paperback books, glass bottles and jars and even the metal lids, junk mail, waxed cardboard and the regular stuff, milk and juice cartons and clean aluminum foil.

Electronics and hazardous waste, including plastic oil bottles, may be dropped off at Indigenous Park, 1801 White St., from 8 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of each month.

The recycling coordinator's office number is 305-809-3776, and the city has a sustainability website, www.preserveislandlife.com, and a Facebook page devoted to green news and the recycling effort.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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