Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Curbside Recycling FINALLY Comes to St. Petersburg, Florida: Can I get an AMEN?!!!

Color me thrilled and heartened! Curbside recycling has finally come to my beautiful city of St. Petersburg, Florida!  A few years ago, St. Petersburg received the distinction of being designated as Florida's first Green City, which I always wondered about in light of our glaring lack of curbside recycling.  Now we are finally fully deserving of that honor (though, of course, we all as individuals and communities can always strive to go even greener, as it is an ongoing process).  Previously, St. Pete had in place—and apparently this option will remain in place—a system of drop-off locations to which residents could take our recyclables, free of charge. This was much better than nothing, but not good enough. It not only required residents like me, who wish to recycle, to use fossil fuel to drive individually to the recycling site versus the more efficient use of fossil fuel for a systematic curbside pickup, let me tell you, it also required serious commitment to going green on the part of the user that goes way beyond that of your average citizen.

Since going green happens to be a deeply held value of mine, I dutifully collected my recyclables and periodically schlepped them to the site, which I must admit was fairly close to my house—within 5 miles, max, I’d guesstimate. You had to fashion your own bins, sort everything, load it all into the car, schleppe to the site, which in the case of the one closest to me, is an unpaved, VERY deep-pot-hole-laden affair that is also a busy brush collection site and usually is crowded with vehicles hauling brush and goodness knows what, and it is usually VERY HOT there and wah wah WAH: in the immortal words of Kermit the Frog: “It isn’t easy being green.” By the time I was done loading, hauling, unloading, sorting and jettisoning a load of recyclables at that site, my car’s undercarriage would be gone, I’d have heat stroke, and I’d be seriously rethinking whether just giving up on recycling, thereby surrendering to the specter of global climate change trashing the earth, would be that bad after all.

In Florida’s first designated Green City, our city government should make it as easy as possible to recycle, and I applaud them for taking this important step toward doing that by FINALLY adopting a curbside recycling program . Ideally, as is the case in some forward-thinking-and-acting communities in America, anything that is picked up for recycling should be free of charge and/or result in rewards for the recycling citizen, while anything that is put out as trash would still be charged for. Those types of curbside recycling programs provide an excellent incentive to everyone to recycle everything they possibly can. Alas, though, this is not how the program is going to unfold in my city, yet I’m still thrilled in the extreme to be able to report that we now at least HAVE a curbside recycling program in my city. I do wish they would consider amending the program that I’m about to describe in the next paragraph so that, if a resident does opt to participate in it, $33.00, an amount equivalent to the annual fee that the resident pays to the private company for the service, would be deducted from that resident’s monthly city utility bill once per year, as an incentive from the city to encourage all citizens to choose to participate. That said, $33.00 per year is a BARGAIN and I’ll take it! In fact, I’ve already jumped at the option and signed up today, as soon as I found out how to do so.

Our new curbside recycling program was recently voted on and approved by City Council, and will consist of a private company providing the service for a scant $2.75 per month, billed annually by the private company as a one-time $33.00 charge (separate from your city utility/trash pick-up bill, this will be a transaction between the resident requesting the service and the private company) to the resident requesting it. It is an optional program, so residents do not have to participate at all. I just called the private company and signed up, and boy was it almost impossible to even get through, which I think is GREAT! The first few times I called, I was put on hold for a while and then directed by an automated system to leave a message and someone would get back to me. Well, I didn’t do that, I simply called back periodically until I finally got a LIVE human being, and he confirmed that the reason it is so hard to get through is just what I hoped it was: thousands of citizens of St. Pete flooding the phone lines with pent-up demand to sign up for our long-hoped-for curbside recycling program!

Indeed it isn’t easy being green. I realize things every day that I could and should do differently in order to be greener. As I've blogged about previously, though, the important thing is not perfection (thank God, because he/she/it is the only one who is perfect), but TRYING, every day, with every choice, to behave in ways that respect our earth. In that “greening of the self” process, you become a more respectful human being in general, and when we all do that, we move to a greener, better world. I feel that signing up for this curbside recycling program is one important way for me to do that. It sends a message to my city leaders that they were right to create and approve this curbside recycling program, and that there is a huge demand for it among the people they represent. More importantly, it gets me and other folks recycling more and recycling consistently.

I’m ridiculously thrilled about this! I can’t wait to receive my recycling bin (7 to 10 business days!), fill ‘er up (as I currently have a LOT of recyclables piled up, since I don’t schleppe to the recycling site as often as I should, due to the aforementioned inherent hassles), and—thrill of thrills—place my recycling bin on the curb for pick-up the first Friday morning after receiving it.

Does anyone else get this excited about recycling, or is it just me?

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