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Prepared for the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area April 2013
INTRODUCTION The League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area enlisted Kessler Consulting, Inc. to conduct an analysis of residential recycling in the City of St. Petersburg, Florida to determine whether universal curbside recycling has the potential to substantially and cost-effectively increase recycling in the City. BACKGROUND The City of St. Petersburg (City) provides twice per week garbage collection to residents and on-call collection of bulk waste using City sanitation crews. About 60 percent of residents use 90-gallon garbage carts and 40 percent have alley service in which three to four homes share a 300-gallon cart. The City does not offer curbside collection of segregated yard debris or, until about two years ago, any type of curbside recycling. In the industry, this is known as 2-0-0 service (twice per week garbage collection with no curbside collection of recyclables or yard debris). In 1988, Florida passed the Solid Waste Management Act that set a 30 percent recycling goal. In response, cities and counties throughout the State initiated recycling programs. Most communities implemented curbside recycling, with more rural areas sometimes opting for drop-off centers. The City created a network of recycling drop-off centers and currently operates 21 centers, 5 of which also accept yard brush. These centers were a good initial step toward recycling and the City has expanded the types of recyclables accepted at the centers as markets have developed for additional recovered commodities. The centers currently accept newspaper, cardboard, mixed paper, aluminum and tin cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles. The level of collection service provided by the City (2-0-0) is considered a very basic level. In fact, in a December 19, 2011 memo to Council, City staff stated “St. Petersburg provides the least amount of citywide curbside pickup services for residential waste” when compared with 13 other communities. This basic service level should be one of the least expensive, yet City residents pay one of the highest service fees ($22.33 per month) in Pinellas County (see Attachment A). About two years ago, in response to citizen requests, the City contracted for subscription-based curbside recycling. Prior to that time, residents had to contract for curbside recycling on their own and at a significant cost (up to $15 per month)
14620 N. Nebraska Ave., Bldg. D, Tampa, FL 33613 | Tel: 813.971.8333 | Fax: 813.971.8582 | www.kesconsult.com
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because of the operational inefficiency of servicing a small number of customers dispersed throughout the City. Beginning October 1, 2010, Waste Services, Inc. (WSI), through a City contract, offered curbside recycling service on a subscription basis for a monthly fee of $2.75 per household per month ($33 per year). WSI provided dual stream recycling using two 18-gallon recycling bins – one for paper (newspaper, cardboard and mixed paper) and the other for commingled containers (glass, plastic and metal containers). During the two-year contract, WSI built its customer base to approximately 8,000 households or about 10 percent of the City’s curbside garbage customers. The company determined this was not sufficient to operate cost-effectively and declined to extend the contract at the end of the initial two-year term. During those two years, WSI collected nearly 4,000 tons of recyclables from City residents, or an average of approximately 48 pounds per customer per month. Starting October 1, 2012, the City contracted with Waste Pro to provide subscription-based curbside recycling for a monthly fee of $4.50 per household. The City decided to subsidize the service by paying Waste Pro $0.75 of this amount, with subscribing residents paying the remaining $3.75 per month ($45 per year). The subsidy will increase to $1.00 per month per customer if 6,000 households do not enroll within the first year. As of November 2012, approximately 6,100 customers had subscribed. For a city its size and density, the City is operating a recycling system (recycling drop-off centers and subscription-based curbside recycling) that is considered outdated and inadequate by industry standards. Waste disposal is easy – just fill your garbage cart. Recycling, however, is inconvenient and treated like an add-on service. Only the most dedicated residents will load up and transport their recyclables to a drop-off center or take the time to subscribe for curbside service. The current system does not demonstrate a comprehensive, sustainable commitment to recycling on the part of the City. Less than 10 percent of City customers utilize the subscription-based curbside recycling program. In fact, based on Pinellas County’s 2012 Recycling Survey, only 35 percent of St. Petersburg residents are even aware that curbside recycling service is available. 1 To accomplish real and substantial improvements in recycling, the City will need to make a fundamental shift in its waste management practices and priorities. The City will need to look at its solid waste system from a new perspective that fully integrates recycling and waste diversion into that system. WHY UNIVERSAL CURBSIDE RECYCLING If the City is committed to substantially increasing recycling, universal curbside recycling should be the first step in improving its residential recycling program. Universal curbside recycling means that curbside recycling is part of the solid waste services provided to all residential customers. It is not the same as mandatory recycling, which generally has a negative connotation because it implies some form of penalty if a resident chooses not to utilize the service.
1Research Data Services, Inc., 2012 Pinellas County Recycling Awareness Survey, September 28, 2012.
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The seven key reasons why universal curbside recycling makes sense for St. Petersburg are because it: 1. Is the industry norm; 2. Recovers more tons of recyclables; 3. Can be implemented cost-effectively; 4. Generates revenue; 5. Creates local jobs; 6. Is environmentally the right thing to do; and 7. Is wanted by the public. Curbside Recycling is the Industry Norm Universal curbside recycling is the solid waste industry norm for urban areas. Most urban communities throughout Florida and the nation have integrated curbside recycling into their basic level of solid waste collection service. Of the 50 most populated cities in Florida, only St. Petersburg (4 th largest) does not have universal curbside recycling (see Attachment B). All municipalities in Pinellas County except St. Petersburg and Redington Shores currently have universal curbside recycling (see Attachment A). Cities that have implemented universal curbside recycling, many for a lower fee than the City currently charges its residents, can provide valuable lessons on how to fully and cost-effectively integrate curbside recycling into a solid waste system. Curbside Recycling Recovers More Tons Just the convenience of universal curbside recycling ensures greater participation and, therefore, more tons of recyclables than in a drop-off program or a subscription-based curbside program. One needs look no further than in Pinellas County to observe this. In 2011, 21 of the 24 municipalities had universal curbside recycling. Dunedin and St. Petersburg had subscription-based curbside recycling and Redington Shores had no curbside recycling.2 Several municipalities, especially those with subscription service, also operated recycling drop-off centers. Municipalities with universal curbside recycling recovered nearly 80 percent more recyclables per household than those with subscription service (see Table 1 and Attachment A). This difference would be even greater if all municipalities with universal curbside recycling included a full range of recyclables in their programs. As noted in Attachment A, many did not include glass, mixed paper or cardboard. Table 1 – Average Recycling Rate per Household in Pinellas County Municipalities, 2011 Municipalities with Universal Curbside Recycling Municipalities with Subscription Curbside Recycling Municipality with No Curbside Recycling Average Recycling Rate 260 145 64
Similar results can be found in other Florida jurisdictions having universal curbside recycling. Data from Tampa and the unincorporated areas of nearby counties reveal
2Dunedin has since implemented universal curbside recycling.
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an average curbside recycling rate of 271 pounds per household per year, with Sarasota County having the highest at 376 pounds per household per year (see Table 2).
Table 2 – Average Recycling Rate per Household in Other Florida Jurisdictions, 2011 Jurisdiction Tampa Manatee County Sarasota County Hillsborough County Average # of Households 74,000 117,800 146,001 246,775 Curbside Recycling 7,682 15,134 27,435 30,125 Recycling Rate (lbs/household 208 257 376 244 271
The data in Table 2 are from 2011 when these jurisdictions had dual stream recycling, meaning that paper and commingled containers must be placed in separate recycling bins or containers. The industry trend is toward single stream recycling using carts, in which all recyclables are placed in one large recycling cart. The convenience and added container capacity of this type of program typically results in a 50 to 100 percent increase in recycling tonnage over dual stream recycling. For example, Dunedin recovered more than twice as many tons of recyclables in its first month of universal, single stream, curbside recycling than in the previous October, and projects a recycling rate of more than 360 pounds per household this year. A reasonable goal for a universal, single stream, curbside recycling program is approximately 400 pounds per household per year, which is more than triple the City’s current residential recycling rate of 122 pounds per household per year. Curbside Recycling can be Implemented Cost-Effectively Many communities with fully integrated universal curbside recycling programs have service fees that are less than the City’s service fee. Direct comparison of fees between jurisdictions is difficult because of differences in local market conditions, competition, what the fee includes, and other factors. However, comparison with numerous jurisdictions provides an indication of what a certain level of service might reasonably cost in the current marketplace. Table 3 provides monthly residential solid waste service fees in the 12 largest municipalities in Pinellas County and in the other Florida jurisdictions mentioned in Table 2. Numerous jurisdictions provide residents with curbside recycling, as well as separate yard waste collection, for a lower service fee than the City charges its residents. Table 3 – Comparison of Service Fees with Jurisdictions having Universal Curbside Collection
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Jurisdiction St. Petersburg Clearwater Pinellas Park Largo Tarpon Springs Safety Harbor Gulfport Oldsmar Seminole St. Pete Beach Treasure Island Madeira Beach Kenneth City Hillsborough County County Sarasota Manatee County Tampa
# of Househol 74,387 26,800 17,692 17,000 7,120 6,383 4,819 4,252 3,793 3,303 2,100 1,922 1,900 246,775 146,001 117,800 74,000
FY 2013 Service Fee $22.33 $27.21 $11.35 $17.65 $17.01 $25.09 $20.07 $16.25 $13.04 $11.80 $19.50 $19.00 $11.00 $19.26 $13.29 $12.38 $31.94
Pickups/Week (solid waste-recycling-yard 2-0-0 2-1-1 2-1-0 2-1-1 2-1-1 2-1-1 2-1-1 2-1-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 2-1-1 2-1-1 2-1-0 2-1-1 1-1-1 2-1-1 2-1-1
The City of Dunedin recently expanded its solid waste services to include universal curbside recycling and decided to maintain its residential solid waste fee of $17.10. According to the city’s FY 2013 Adopted Operating Budget, Dunedin expects to offset most of its increased operating expenses for recycling ($262,080) through waste disposal savings ($209,459). Osceola County recently implemented universal curbside recycling. The County converted from 2-0-1 service to 1-1-1 service, thereby keeping the total number of pickups per week to three. In the process, the County reduced its monthly service fee from $17.73 per household to $16.33, resulting in an annual savings to residents of $16.80. Recyclable Materials Generate Revenue Recyclable materials are marketable commodities that have value. In fact, once processed for marketing, the average value of a typical ton of curbside recyclables is currently about $120 and has ranged in value between $50 and $180 in the past six years. Many jurisdictions receive a share of the revenue derived from their recyclable materials. The value of recovered materials fluctuates over time, but numerous communities currently receive revenue in the range of $40 to $70 per ton. In fact, Hillsborough County recently received bids as high as $68 per ton in net revenue to provide recyclables processing services. The City of Lakeland, Indian River County, and Polk County also procured recyclables processing services this past year and will receive net revenue of $52.41, $52.58, and $49.62 per ton for recyclables delivered to their processors this month.
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Combined with the avoided cost of disposing of these recyclables ($37.50 per ton in Pinellas County), the financial benefit to the City of recovering additional recyclables should be more than $80 per ton. Curbside Recycling Creates Local Jobs Employment per ton of material recycled is almost ten times greater than employment per ton of material disposed.3 Many of these jobs are local jobs to collect and prepare recyclable materials for marketing. Several private companies have made or are making substantial business investments in the Tampa Bay area to develop Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs). Waste Services recently acquired ACC Recycling, located within the City of St. Petersburg, and is investing millions of dollars to convert this facility to a single stream MRF. The facility will be capable of processing 24 tons of recyclables per hour and is scheduled to be operational by summer 2013. In addition, Waste Management recently invested millions of dollars to construct a single stream MRF in Hillsborough County that is capable of processing up to 400 tons of recyclables per day. Combined, these facilities will employ at least 60 individuals from the local area. For many years, the Tampa Bay area suffered from a lack of local processing capacity for recyclable materials, but that is no longer the case. Implementing a comprehensive curbside recycling program will help support and sustain these local businesses and retain local jobs, while at the same time providing a service that makes sense environmentally and economically. Curbside Recycling is Environmentally the Right Thing to Do Recycling of conventionally recyclable materials found in residential waste (i.e., newspaper, cardboard, mixed paper, and glass, aluminum, tin-plated steel, and plastic containers) consumes less energy and imposes lower environmental burdens than disposal of these materials via landfilling or waste-to-energy (WTE), even after accounting for energy that may be recovered from waste materials at either type disposal facility. This is because the energy conservation and pollution prevention resulting from using recycled rather than virgin materials as feedstocks for manufacturing new products tends to be an order of magnitude greater than the additional energy and environmental burdens imposed by curbside collection trucks, recycled material processing facilities, and transportation of processed recyclables to end-use markets. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done extensive research evaluating the life-cycle impacts of various solid waste management options. As demonstrated in Table 4, the net reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from using recyclable materials instead of virgin materials to manufacture new products far exceeds that of combusting or landfilling these materials, which for some materials results in a net increase in GHG emissions. Table 4 – Net Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Waste Management Options (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent/ton)
3Cascadia Consulting Group, Recycling and Economic Development: A Review of Existing Literature on Job Creation, Capital Investment, and Tax Revenues, April 2009.
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Material Aluminum Cans Steel Cans Glass Mixed Plastics Corrugated Containers Newspaper Mixed Paper (primarily
Net GHG Emissions from -8.89 -1.80 -0.28 -0.98 -3.11 -2.78 -3.52
Net GHG Emissions from 0.05 -1.59 0.05 1.25 -0.48 -0.55 -0.48
Net GHG Emissions from 0.04 0.04 0.04 0.04 -0.05 -1.01 -0.14
Note: Negative energy impacts = Reductions inGHG GHGemissions associated with collecting, transporting, processing and a Includes all recycling or manufacturing the recycled material into a new product; avoided upstream GHG emissions associated with producing the same amount of material from virgin inputs; and b Includes the gross emissions from solid waste combustion; emissions avoided because of displaced electric utility generation; and emissions avoided due to increased steel recovery at WTE facilities. c Includes methane emissions from anaerobic decomposition of biogenic carbon compounds; carbon dioxide emissions from landfilling equipment; biogenic carbon stored in the landfill; and carbon dioxide emissions avoided through landfill gas-to-energy projects. Source: EPA, Documentation for Greenhouse Gas Emission and Energy Factors Used in the Waste Reduction Model (WARM).
Significant energy savings also are realized by recycling rather than landfilling or combustion, even accounting for the energy created through the combustion process (Table 5).
Table 5 – Net Energy Impacts from Waste Management Options (million BTU/ton) Material Aluminum Cans Steel Cans Glass Mixed Plastics Corrugated Containers Newspaper Mixed Paper (primarily residential)
Note: Negative energy impacts = Energy savings
Recycling -152.76 -19.97 -2.13 -41.3 -15.06 -16.49 -20.40
WTE 0.63 -17.10 0.53 -14.95 -6.71 -7.61 -6.70
Landfilling 0.53 0.53 0.53 0.53 0.14 0.39 0.19
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Source: EPA, Documentation for Greenhouse Gas Emission and Energy Factors Used in the Waste Reduction Model (WARM).
In other words, recycling puts these materials to their highest and best use from an environmental perspective even after the energy and pollution impacts of collecting, transporting, and processing these materials are taken into account. Residents Want Curbside Recycling Most City residents want curbside recycling. According to a Pinellas County survey, 57 percent of City residents would even be willing to pay extra for this service. 4 The current subscription-based service does not address this need since less than 10 percent of households with curbside garbage service participate in the program. When provided with a simple, convenient way to recycle, residents respond. Single stream, cart-based, curbside recycling that is part of the basic collection services provided to all residents generally achieves the greatest participation and highest recycling tonnage. An add-on program that requires residents to seek out the service provider and subscribe for service does not meet the expectations of most residents of a City that prides itself on being Florida’s first designated “Green City.” CONCLUSIONS The City’s recycling program has not significantly changed since drop-off centers were established nearly 25 years ago. However, during the past 25 years, about one-third of the United States’ current population was born, cell phones were developed, personal computers became available, the Internet was created, and music and photos were digitalized. Much has changed in the solid waste industry as well. Curbside recycling programs sprang up in Florida and throughout the nation. Facilities to process recyclables were constructed and modernized as technology evolved, including new and expanding facilities in the Tampa Bay area. As processing technology evolved, recycling programs transitioned from sorting at the curb to dual stream and now to single stream. The increased convenience for customers resulted in recovering more tons of recyclables. As markets for recyclables developed, demand increased and many Florida communities now earn $40 to $70 in net revenue for each ton recycled. As more recyclables and yard waste were diverted from disposal, many Florida communities converted from twice per week to once per week garbage collection (the standard service in many other parts of the country). Currently, at least 30 percent of the State’s population receives weekly garbage collection. Florida’s recycling goal increased from 30 percent to 75 percent. If the City of St. Petersburg wants to substantially increase recycling, change needs to occur. The City will need to make recycling and waste
4Research Data Services, Inc., 2012 Pinellas County Recycling Awareness Survey, September 28, 2012.
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reduction a priority, take a fresh look at its solid waste operations, and modernize these operations to incorporate curbside recycling as an integral part of the services provided to residents. Universal curbside recycling can be implemented efficiently and cost-effectively, as demonstrated by numerous other cities and counties throughout the State, and has the potential to more than triple the amount of residential recyclables currently collected by the City.
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