Local News

County to negotiate recycling contract

SEBRING - If Highlands County residents want recycling, there's a small price.

County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete outlined three options Tuesday to the county commission:

1. Twice weekly garbage pickup, bi-weekly recycling stop. Cost: $2.24 per household per month.

2. Twice weekly garbage, once weekly recycling. Cost: $2.89.

3. Once weekly garbage, once weekly recycling. Cost: $1.33.

That was the offer from Progressive Waste Solutions, formerly known as Choice Environmental, which is currently picking up garbage from residents outside the municipalities.

Option 2 is what Gavarrete called the Cadillac option, because it offers three pickups a week.

Commissioners instructed County Administrator June Fisher to negotiate a contract with PWS. Gavarrete and the county unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a contact with Choice/Republic Services last year.

Before a contract is adopted, however, the county must go through a series of public hearings.

Currently, from 12 to 15 percent of household waste is being voluntarily dropped off in mall and shopping center bins, Gavarrete said. Since Highlands is under 100,000 population, Florida suggests that the county set recycling goals, which is currently 40 percent.

"In 13 months," he said, "we need to be at 50 percent. But that is a goal. All they can do is send you a letter that says you didn't meet your goals. They can instruct the county to go to mandatory curbside though.

"The EPA hasn't set rules," Gavarrete added, "but I expect there will be a mandate one day."

And by 2020, the entire state's goal is to divert 75 percent of its waste stream from the landfill.

If county residents are provided with free recycling containers at each home, Gavarrete has said he expects the recycling percentage will rise.

After listening to the public, commissioners may decide how many pickups are necessary, Gavarrete said.

Commissioner Jim Brooks talked with city management and residents of Avon Park, where recycling has been in place for a year.

Garbage is picked up only once a week, but they've learned that's enough if they properly recycle cardboard boxes, glass, cans and paper.

Brooks said there were initials fears of flies and maggots, but that didn't happen.

"There have been very few complaints - almost minimal," Brooks said. "And if they got a complaint, part of it was just educating the person. A lot of them like it."

Much depends on household habits, Commissioner Don Elwell said. "Pizza boxes, they will take up a lot of room at my house."

The service would be cheaper if the county provides one recycling cart per household, Gavarrete said: a $1.51 per month increase instead of $2.24; $2.15 instead of $2.89 for Option 2, and $.59 instead of $1.33 for Option 3.

Gavarrete recommended that the county take the more expensive option. "I don't think the county wants to do that."

"In addition, you still have a recycling center to operate," Gavarrete said.

The county also would not charge PWS a tipping fee for recyclables. PWS would agree, under a 10-year contract, to pick up yard waste every other week and bulk waste once a month. The county and PWS would split the profit from the sale of recycled glass, metals and paper.