ISLAMORADA -- The village and waste hauler Advanced Disposal Solutions have made significant recycling strides since Advanced's new contract began on Jan. 1.
The improvements have come on the heels of the increase from 14 gallons to 64 gallons in the size of the recycle bins that Advanced distributes to village residences.
They've also come even though the village has not imposed mandatory recycling on businesses, as is envisioned in the new contract.
"People are recycling more. I'm saving money on disposal. It's good. It's all good," local Advanced manager Bruce Williams told the Village Council last Wednesday.
He added that this year the company has "nearly doubled" the amount of recycling it is collecting in the village on a monthly basis.
A Free Press review of hauling records that Advanced provided to the village found improvements that, while significant, aren't nearly that strong.
The company transported 597 tons of non-vegetative recyclables to the WSI recycle center in Miami during the first six months of this year, the records show, which is an increase of 33 percent over the 447 tons that the company hauled north during the same period last year.
Still, the recyclables that Advanced collected during the first half of the year were dwarfed by conventional landfill garbage, which accounted for 90.8 percent of Advanced's combined recycling and garbage stream. Garbage made up 93 percent of that stream during the first six months of last year.
Because Advanced is the exclusive garbage hauler in the village, but not the lone recyclables hauler, those figures aren't reflective of all recycling undertaken in Islamorada, but they do reflect all garbage collection.
The company Key Lime Roll Off, which deals primarily with cardboard used by businesses, is the second significant recycling hauler in the village.
Along with the improvements in recycling, Advanced also took 37 percent more material to Atlantic Transfer and Trash in Key Largo during the first half of this year than during the same period last year.
Atlantic Transfer and Trash is where Advanced takes vegetative waste and construction debris. Vegetative waste is defined as a recyclable by the state. But because Advanced measures its vegetative waste pickup in yards, rather than tons, it is difficult to compare collections of those materials with trash and conventional recyclables.
Williams did not respond to a Free Press phone call for clarification of the Advanced hauling records.
At last week's Village Council meeting he said local businesses are gradually buying into the recycling program. Two or three new Islamorada businesses join the program each week, he said.
"I'd like to add more but they need to be sold on the idea, and when I meet with them they're sold on the idea," Williams said.
In an interview just after the meeting, Public Works Director John Sutter said the village's current focus is to convince businesses to recycle without the imposition of a mandatory program.
"The goal is to see how far we can get with increasing awareness and voluntary participation," he said.
But in an interview the following day, Councilman Ken Philipson said he had been unaware that mandatory recycling had not been implemented already.
The contract that Advanced and the village entered into last fall references an "anticipated mandatory recycling program." The language was included in follow-up to a unanimous March 2013 council decision in favor of a mandatory commercial recycling.
To implement such a program the Village Council must first pass an ordinance spelling out its details.
Philipson said he plans to put the issue on an upcoming Village Council meeting agenda.
"I want to get it into effect," he said.