Florida Keys News
Monday, August 5, 2013
Key West's new trash pickup is off to a good start

The city of Key West's once-a-week trash pickup program, which has equipped locals with new 65-gallon blue recycling carts, ran "relatively smoothly," in its maiden voyage last week, according to city staff.

Welcome to week two of the big transition from twice-weekly trash pickups to a single day for collection of everything: trash, recycling and yard waste -- each in its own separate and clearly labeled container.

Will Thompson, the city's recycling coordinator, said there were a few hiccups in the inaugural week of one-day, all-in-one waste pickup for Key West.

For starters, the practice of tossing plastic bags into the blue recycling carts has to stop, Thompson said.

Plastic bags, such as the flimsy mass-produced grocery bags, can't be recycled in Key West but may be taken back to local stores, several of which have specific canisters set up outside for them.

Also, the sorting equipment at the city's transfer station on Rockland Key can't spit out the bags, which could damage machinery.

But Thompson made it clear the city is ready to help with any questions, problems or confusion locals may have with the new program.

Thompson spent last week fielding questions and even paid house calls to folks who asked for explanations of the new system.

A learning curve was expected.

"With any new program, you can expect issues to come up, and our staff did a great job dealing with any problems quickly and effectively," Thompson said in a prepared statement. "But none of this would have been possible without the help and cooperation of the citizens of Key West."

Key West neighborhoods have been stocked with the 13,000 bright blue carts that cost the city $631,000 and are part of an effort to raise the island's dismal statistic that states only 7 percent of residential waste is being recycled.

In January 2009, the City Commission declared residential recycling mandatory, but put no enforcement provisions in the law and made certain not to include businesses in the edict.

Finally, city staff put together a new way of doing business when it comes to trash.

Waste Management has been instructed by the city to make trash, recycling and yard waste pickups Monday through Friday, giving an allotted section of Key West a single day to lug everything out to the curb.

Another understandable mistake residents made in the program's first week was dumping yard waste in the blue bins.

All yard waste has to hit the curb in its own container, clearly labeled by either the free bumper stickers the city fanned out across the island at stores or with handmade labels.

The city only supplies a trash bin and a recycling cart. Residents must supply their own yard waste container.

There is no limit to how much trash, recycling or yard waste one home may set out on its designated pickup day. But everything must be in a sturdy container, such as a plastic trash can.

Yard waste rules have changed because Key West is now sending its branches, leaves and assorted yard clippings to the mainland for composting rather than an incinerator.

To ensure the yard waste makes the correct landing for composting, residents must make it clear on their containers.

Bagged waste and loose ends won't be picked up, city staff warns. And repeat violators stuffing plastic bags or palm fronds into the new blue carts risk not having their recycling picked up at all, city staff warned on its special Key West Recycles page on Facebook.

The page itself has become a communication source between residents, both grateful and cranky, and city staff over the new rules for trash and recycling pickup.

Thompson's number is 305-890-3776.

Anyone who thinks trash, yard waste or recycling was not picked up may call Waste Management at 305-434-9135 or 305-434-9143.

The belief is that residents will fill the 65-gallon blue carts with recyclables instead of tossing cans, glass and newspapers into their trash so the city can eventually make the state's goal of a 75 percent recycling rate by 2020.

Legislators in 2010 wrote the 75 percent goal into the law books, after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported that Floridians were collectively recycling 28 percent of their solid waste.

The 2010 figures came two decades after the state passed its first recycling goal of 30 percent.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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