Universal recycling comes to St. Petersburg, Fla., but what does it mean for the state’s future?

Residents will be getting new, larger recycling containers when the program launches.

Residents will be getting new, larger recycling containers when the program launches.

St. Petersburg is looking to live up to its promise of sustainability now that universal recycling is set to begin operations this summer. The program is replacing the current subscription-based service utilized by some residents and has been in the works since Mayor Rick Kriseman took his oath of office in 2014.

Beginning the first week of May, 2015, the first of 76,000 homes will receive their blue 95-gallon recycling containers. Approximately two weeks after households get their containers the soft opening of the recycling collection will commence.

But how is it all really going to play out? Is St. Petersburg capable of living up to the high expectations set forth by the mayor?

Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin is excited to see the program roll out.

“It’s a move that we’re very proud of,” Tomalin said. “It has been a long time in the making, but now it’s time. Our success is dependent on each of our individual engagements.”

The sanitation department is aiming for 100 percent contribution from residents within the next 10 years, but the actual participation numbers are still nothing more than a figure at this point.

But, the $2.95 monthly fee attached to everyone’s utility bill will surely be enough incentive for many to fill their blue containers for a more sustainable future.

Long-term sustainability was one of the more important goals which Kriseman and Tomalin sought to bring to the city upon entering office. “Curbside recycling is one of the ways we are moving forward as we engineer a city of opportunity,” Tomalin said.

“We have the resources, we have the willingness and the ability to have our city’s recycling policies reflect our philosophies,” Tomalin said.

St. Petersburg was the first city in Florida to become a green city – an accolade received in 2008 – and the recycling initiative aims to continue paving the way to the city’s sustainable future.

Ecowatch.com, a website featuring environmental news, business, and technology updates, outlines, “the 10 most inspirational sustainability initiatives in the US” in an article from July of 2014. The inspirational list highlights everything from organic food production in Wisconsin to the construction of green buildings in Chicago.

St. Petersburg is hoping to one day be on one of those lists. As for the recycling program in St. Petersburg, city workers are optimistic of their residents’ willingness and excitement in participation.

“We have a full marketing plan in place for the promotion of the program,” said Regena Williams of the sanitation department. “The department will be at many of the city’s scheduled events promoting the program.”

Any opposition to the flat fee on all utility bills has yet to voice their grievances, but that will surely become a factor when the roll out of the program finally gets underway.

City Council Member Karl Nurse says once the program gains momentum and the amount of solid waste decreases due to more recycling, a tipping point will be reached and overall costs will decrease.

“Basically, as a city, we’ll work through this together,” Tomalin said. “It probably won’t be perfect at the roll out, but what will be absolutely comprehensive is our commitment to get it right.”

All information can be located on the city’s recycling website at www.stpete.org/recycling.

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