BRADENTON, Fla. — Officials in Bradenton are considering ending curbside recycling as the city faces a "perfect storm" when it comes to problems related to the service.
Living just a short walk from the confluence of the Braden and Manatee Rivers in Bradenton, Michael Modesto and his family try to recycle a lot.
“We try to recycle more than we throw away,” he said. “We’re big water people, big boaters and what not. So yeah, it’s disappointing to see the amount of trash that’s out on the waterways sometimes.”
For Modesto, the City of Bradenton's biweekly curbside recycling pick-up has become somewhat unreliable lately.
“It’s a crapshoot,” Modesto said.
However, to Modesto, it’s an important service that he uses as much as possible, and he was surprised to learn the city might be scrapping curbside recycling pick-up soon.
“I thought Bradenton was supposed to be, you know, more of an up-and-coming city, you know?” Modesto remarked.
The city said it’s facing a perfect storm. For one, City Administrator Rob Perry said finding the staff to empty curbside recycling cans has become a persistent problem.
“As it relates to trying to attract commercial drivers license individuals that can operate a 60,000-pound truck, we’re operating at about a 20% vacancy,” Perry said. “We’ve increased salaries by about $3 an hour, we provide signing bonuses and other types of incentives, and we’re still short.”
Additionally, Perry said recyclers complicate matters by recycling incorrectly.
“If 10% of our load is contaminated with non-recyclables, then what basically happens is that that entire load has to go to the city’s dump and be dumped with everything else,” he explained.
“Even though the public thinks that they’re recycling, first, they’re not, and they’re paying twice as much for it, and we have a shortage of labor,” Perry continued. “So, when I say a perfect storm, there’s a lot of elements contributing to a fairly untenable situation.”
Both reasons are why Perry and the city are considering ending curbside recycling. A new plan, instead, would put more focus on solid waste and yard waste pick-up. Existing curbside recycling bins would be used for yard waste.
Perry said recycling would still be offered at 10 to 20 drop-off sites across the city.
“I think the net effect of this program is that we actually end up getting more, truly clean recyclables that can be efficiently disposed of in a recyclable, sustainable manner,” Perry said.
Avid recyclers like Modesto disagree.
“If I have to do it on a weekly basis between everything else going on in life, I can see how, you know, it would be easy just to be like, ‘Eh. I’ll just put it in the trash can and, you know, not deal with it,’” he said.
He fears the move will send more garbage to landfills, into local rivers, and into the Gulf of Mexico.
The switch is not official yet. Bradenton City Council is set to discuss the idea in an 8:30 meeting Wednesday morning.