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Deleon: Recycling is going well
[January 21, 2013]

Deleon: Recycling is going well

AVON PARK, Jan 21, 2013 (Highlands Today - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Harry Pope likes the convenience of curbside recycling, which started in Avon Park two months ago, but feels the city needs to come up with a more comprehensive list of what can and what cannot be recycled.

"I know plastic bottles are recyclable, but what about other types of plastics " he said.

Robyn Laye Wise also has liked the recycling program so far and has found that "more goes" in the blue recycling bin.

Kenya Rich, on the other hand, would rather return to twice-a-week garbage pickup, while Stephanie Hadwin wishes Sebring had a residential recycling program.

Kimberly Gauger, who doesn't live in Avon Park, doesn't understand why "you can't have two garbage pickup days and one recycling pickup day " When Avon Park started curbside recycling, regular garbage dropped to a once-a-week service instead of two, adding a weekly pickup for recyclables.

Gauger said she would "love" for Sebring to have a curbside recycling program, but not if it meant losing a trash pickup day.

These comments posted on Highlands Today's Facebook page are all statements Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon has probably heard.

Avon Park launched Highlands County's first curbside residential recycling program Nov. 14. Since then, contractor Republic Services' two trucks have been picking up an average of 10 tons a week of paper, cardboard, plastic and glass, Deleon said.

"As part of public outreach efforts, we are scheduling trips to the schools and other civic organizations," Deleon wrote in an email.

Deleon plans a more detailed analysis after the program has been in place for six months. But, according to his initial estimates, 20 percent of the "total residential weight," or the total residential solid waste collection, is being recycled, he said.

"We have consistently collected just over 10 tons per week," he wrote. "These recycling totals have not increased as of yet." While Republic Services does Avon Park's recycling pickup, city crews, along with city trucks, pick up regular trash.

Deleon has received a few complaints from people grumbling about regular garbage being picked up only once a week, but added he was confident that with the savings the city should realize on tipping fees, maintenance and gasoline during regular trash pickup, Avon Park residents will see a drop in their garbage rates within the following year.

Meanwhile, the city of Sebring is in "wait-and-see" mode on its recycling options, and Highlands County is going to have discussions soon with Republic Services, which was the only bidder on the county's second request for proposals for recycling in the unincorporated areas.

"We are still evaluating the response," county engineer Ramon Gavarette said Thursday. "We have not met with the contractor at this time." Gavarette said he hopes to have a recommendation for county commissioners in about 30 to 60 days.

The economics of making a recycling program at least pay for itself have been the biggest challenge municipalities have faced.

Gavarette explained that since Choice Environmental Services picks up the county's trash, the county does not have its own fleet of trucks.

For Highlands County, the money in tipping fees it would potentially lose once Choice takes less trash to the county landfill, should a recycling program be in place, and the cost of picking up the recyclables have to balance a revenue sharing plan the county negotiates with a recycling company, Gavarette explained. Otherwise, residents would end up having to pay more.

That has been the million-dollar question so far.

Scott Noethlich, Sebring's city administrator, said that Sebring is currently looking at its options were it to privatize its solid waste collection, and recycling is part of it.

The city has put in a request for proposals and the deadline to submit bids is Friday. Companies have the option of submitting a bid for residential garbage pickup, regular trash pickup with once-a-week recycling or a third option that would make recycling pickup once every other week.

Sebring is also waiting to see where the county goes with its recycling program.

So far, all options are on the table, including doing what Avon Park does, Noethlich said.

"The last thing we want to do is impose a recycling program that will cost the taxpayers more," he added.

___ (c)2013 the Highlands Today (Sebring, Fla.) Visit the Highlands Today (Sebring, Fla.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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