Key West ramps up effort to increase recycling

skinney@keynoter.comSeptember 22, 2012 

Key West City Manager Bob Vitas on Friday sat down with staff from Waste Management Inc. to discuss amendments to its contracts for hauling waste with an eye on boosting local recycling rates.

Last month, the city received recommendations from Kessler Consulting, based on a comprehensive waste and recycling analysis begun in 2010, on how to increase recycling; Key West recycles 7 percent of more than 59,000 tons of waste collected each year.

Kessler reports that 71 percent of that waste stream comprises recyclables and compostables that could be diverted from landfills or waste-to-energy processing.

The city pays Waste Management $2.4 million each year for residential pickup and another $3 million per year for transfer and disposal. Commercial businesses working directly with Waste Management pay another $2.5 million each year.

The collection agreement expires in 2014 and the transport and disposal contract in 2018; both can be terminated with 180 days notice.

"Progress is being made," Vitas said of his conversations with Waste Management. "They seemed genuine in terms of working with us to accommodate most all the items ... and I think it'll simply come down to a revenue and cost-sharing discussion in the final analysis."

Vitas is using Kessler's recommendations as a starting point for negotiations with Waste Management meant to incorporate the following goals into the existing contracts:

  • Revenue sharing based on the resale price of recyclables collected and then sold on the commodities market.

  • Replacing the familiar green recycling bins with wheeled carts.

  • Transferring to a so-called 1-1-1 pickup schedule with one pickup each week for trash, recycling and yard waste.

  • Encouraging business recycling by making available a wide variety of carts and making recycling fees comparable to solid-waste fees.

  • Providing the city with monthly tracking reports.

  • Increasing community education and outreach.

  • Formulating a plan for regular disposal of hazardous household waste and electronic waste.

    Greg Sullivan, Waste Management's Florida Keys director, concurred with Vitas in that the bottom line will come down to money. In terms of recycling revenue, he said while there is potential resale value of recyclables, when considering expensive transportation out of the Keys, there's not much meat left on the bone.

    "One of the things we're up against here is transportation," he said.

    City Commissioner Teri Johnston, long a strong proponent of better recycling policies, said that depending on the outcome of Vitas' negotiations, she might consider pushing for a bidding process to determine if Waste Management is the best deal for the city.

    "We know where we want to go but it depends on the price. If this is the cost, what is the competition's cost?"

    The city paid Tampa-based Kessler $379,000 for the solid-waste study.

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