Blue cart for recycling only

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - Residential curbside garbage collection is mandatory within the Vero Beach city limits, but not in unincorporated Indian River County. If a proposal from Commissioner Peter O’Bryan is approved during September’s budget hearings, garbage collection will become mandatory.

The proposal is an effort to save the county’s recycling program, which has been subject to great abuse. Because the county provides all residents with recycling bins, some people have been putting trash with their recycling, which contaminates the entire bin and potentially the entire truck.

According to a notice posted on the county’s website and mailed to residents, the contents of the blue recycling carts go to the Material Recovery Facility in Ft. Pierce for sorting. When the load contains garbage, it has to be sent back to the Indian River County landfill, costing more money to the county, which eventually gets passed on to taxpayers.

The notices threatened repeat offenders who put garbage in recycling carts with a $500 fine or loss of the cart, but that didn’t solve the problem, nor did sending staff to manually examine recycling bins at curbsides throughout the county.

“We’ve implemented the educational program, and the code enforcement, and I think these are good things to do, but I’m concerned that they’re not enough,” Comm. O’Bryan said.

The commissioner proposed adding $48.60 to the next solid waste assessment, to cover six months of mandatory county-wide trash pickup starting in April. At the suggestion of County Administrator Jason Brown, that was raised to $51, or $8.50 per month, due to possible changes in the Waste Management contract tied to changes in the consumer price index.

“The main reason I want to bring this up now is that if the education and code enforcement does not resolve the contamination issue, it’s going to be 14 months before we can take any other corrective action,” Comm. O’Bryan said, referring to the lengthy budget process and the need for accurate TRIM notices to be sent to residents. “I think by that time we may very well lose Tropical as our company that takes our recycling. If we have to go to another sorting facility, that can be an extremely expensive option.”

Some counties and cities have given up recycling for this same reason, deciding instead to landfill their recyclables as a cheaper alternative. The county commissioners made clear they want to continue the recycling program, and they see mandatory garbage collection as a key factor.

By adding the proposal to the budget negotiations now, commissioners give themselves the option of proceeding with the new assessment next year if the budget is approved in September. But if the proposal is not added now, it cannot be brought up in the September budget hearings, when taxes can be lowered but not raised from proposals on the table.

“If we add it to our budget now, it will go out on the TRIM notice, so the public will be notified of that, and hopefully more people will come to the budget hearing in September,” Comm. O’Bryan said. “It will give us two months between now and when we have the final budget hearing where we can have further discussions on this.”

“If we decide not to go with mandatory county-wide pickup, we always have the option to lower that assessment at our final or next-to-final budget hearing.”

If approved, residents currently paying Waste Management would continue to pay until the end of March, after which those fees would be paid by the county from taxes. Those residents will actually save about $2 per month under the existing proposal, whereas those not currently paying for trash pickup would see an increase of $8.50 per month.

Public comments will be taken at the two budget hearings on Sept. 11 and Sept. 18.

Curbside garbage programs vary from city to city. For questions regarding garbage or yard waste pick up, contact your designated hauler: The Town of Orchid: Waste Pro, (772) 318-6922; Indian River Shores: Treasure Coast Refuse, (772) 562-6620; City of Vero Beach: Solid Waste Division for the City of Vero Beach, (772) 978-5300; elsewhere in the county: Waste Management, (772) 569-1776.

For more information about recycling in Indian River County, visit www.ircrecycles.com.

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