The Monroe County Commission shot down a proposal to make recycling mandatory in the unincorporated areas of the Florida Keys. The commission met Thursday to discuss possible changes to its comprehensive land-use plan, which included a discussion about changing trash and recycling procedures.
The county's Planning Commission recently recommended that recycling be mandatory. The recommendation was met with staunch resistance from county commissioners.
"There has to be a better way than cracking the whip over people," Commissioner David Rice said.
"There are other ways to encourage people to recycle," Commissioner Heather Carruthers added.
Carruthers suggested possibly implementing fines for businesses that don't recycle, but her fellow commissioners did not bite on the idea.
"It's the only way to get to the big numbers," Carruthers said.
The commission proposed a goal of eventually reaching a 75 percent recycling participation rate.
The county is able to include part of its regular trash disposal as recycling because the trash is burned at a Waste Management owned waste-to-energy plant in Broward County, bringing the county's recycling rate to 62 percent. Without including the burning of trash, the rate would be about 37 percent, according Rosa Washington, who oversees recycling projects for the county.
In January 2009, the Key West City Commission passed a law that made recycling mandatory. At the meeting in which the ordinance was discussed, the city commission chambers were packed with Green Living and Energy Education members and others urging approval.
But the law contains no enforcement or punishment language for those who violate the regulation.
The county commission, on Thursday, left open the possibility of revisiting the idea and has proposed language in the comp plan that calls for the issues to be reviewed every three years. The commission could later come back and make recycling mandatory by creating a new ordinance regulating it.
The comp plan generally deals with bigger overarching policy issues, and ordinances regulate more specific activities.
Also on Thursday, the commission approved adding language in the comp plan to require developers to hold a public meeting with the county commission when they are asking for land-use changes, or proposing projects that have county-wide impacts.
The meetings would be held shortly after the developers propose projects or land-use changes. The commissioners asked for the comp plan language because they are concerned the county's planning staff is spending too much time on projects and land-use change requests that the commission does not support and eventually shoots down.