A corrected version of this story appears below. Pasco County’s waste-to-energy facility at Shady Hills burns trash to produce renewable energy. Recyclables are not burned, but processed and sold to market. This information was incorrect in the original cutline of a photo and in the story. A correction also will appear in the Dec. 7 publication of The Laker/Lutz News.
Pasco County faces a double dilemma.
First, how does the county get more residents to recycle?
The county plans to post a survey online early next year seeking public input on what it would take to boost residents’ 27 percent participation rate in curbside recycling.
Answers to that survey could help to shape the solution to the other half of the dilemma.
How can Pasco find $190 million to expand its waste-to-energy plant at Shady Hills that burns trash and produces renewable energy?
The county doesn’t have that money. It’s not even close.
About $48 million sits in the county’s solid waste’s reserve budget, but that covers any potential expenditure for solid waste.
More recycling could reduce landfill disposal costs and mean a delay in expanding Shady Hill’s facility beyond 2030.
Members of the county’s solid waste department presented options at a public workshop on Nov. 15. Those options include a $2 to the annual assessment.
Developers also could possibly see an increase in solid waste impact fees that would be offset with an equivalent decrease in water impact fees.
The long-range goal is to build up funds for the expansion costs.
“The further we put it out, the more it’s going to cost,” said Flip Mellinger, assistant county administer for utilities. “Either way, it’s not going away.”
A decision on the fees, as well as other options, won’t likely come until more discussion in 2017.
The workshop was presented to a commission that is n a state of transition.
Only three current commissioners attended – Mike Moore, Mike Wells Jr., and Jack Mariano. Pasco Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey had a scheduling conflict and Commissioner-elect Ron Oakley, attended, but had not yet been sworn in.
Ted Schrader decided not to seek re-election, but instead made an unsuccessful run for property appraiser. His last meeting was Nov. 9.
Commissioners agreed to pursue a community survey on residents’ recycling preferences. But, a proposed list of questions will be reviewed, with more discussion with staff members on a final document.
Residents probably will see the survey in early 2017 when it is posted online to the county’s website, PascoCounty.gov, and the county’s mobile application, MyPasco.
The survey is expected to attempt to determine how often people use curbside recycling, trash pickups, the county’s drop-off recycling centers and what kinds of materials are recycled.
It also asks if residents would give up one day of trash pickup a week in order to have recycling once a week at no additional charge. Or, would residents be willing to pay more to have two days of trash pickup and one day a week of recycling.
Currently, about 27 percent of residents participate in curbside recycling. That is a somewhat higher number since June when the county added cardboard and paper to a list of approved items for recycling pickup. In each month since then, recycling grew by about 100 tons a month or more.
“It was a significant jump, but not where we need to be,” Mellinger said.
The goal is to boost recycling by 10 percent a year by 2030, or 48,000 tons with no changes to the current program. However, an expanded recycling program would aim for a goal of 35 percent more recycling per year by 2030, or 168,000 tons per year.
The current amount recycled annually is about 4,200 tons a year, or about 1.4 percent of all solid waste collections.
An educational program could be done in-house or by hiring an outside communications firm.
Giving carts to residents also is seen as a way to significantly boost recycling.
But, solid waste officials also said one-day-a-week trash pickup encourages people to make use of one-day-a-week recycling programs that provide carts.
Short of that, a two-day-a-week trash pickup, with one day for recycling would work, if residents pay more, but should be seen as an interim way to reach the “one/one” option.
Moore said he would expect pushback from residents on going to one day each for trash and recycling. “I don’t think that’s a great idea,” he said. “I think we’d take a lot of hits from citizens.”
An increase in fees also is doubtful, he said.
Wells noted a program in Clearwater for one day each of trash and recycling pickups, and carts. It got off to a slow start, with some resistance from residents. But, he said the program eventually boosted recycling by about 20 percent.
“It really comes down to education,” Wells said. “There’s no doubt we need to do a better job with education.”
Published November 3o, 2016