SEBRING — After a discussion on recycling was put off earlier this year, the issue was scheduled for the Highlands County commission meeting on Tuesday.
However, Commission Greg Harris said Saturday, “I pulled it from the agenda. Ramon isn’t going to be there, Commissioner (Ron) Handley isn’t going to be there. So we’re putting it off.”
It’s been rescheduled for the June 3 agenda. By then, Harris hopes to have new cost estimates.
In a written statement, County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete outlined several problems with recycling:
Current Florida law required counties under 100,000 to “provide its residents with the opportunity to recycle.” The county provides bins at shopping center to collect paper, plastic, metals and glass.
Florida law requires counties over 100,000 population to “have a goal of recycling solid waste by 50 percent by Dec. 31, 2014.” Highlands County’s estimated 2013 population is 97,616 and has been shrinking slightly since 2009. However, officials assume the census will again post positive numbers before 2020.
The county has received a 90-day termination notice from SP Fiber Technologies, which is the county’s commodity dealer for cardboard, newspaper and plastic. “It will be very difficult to issue a (request for proposals) or bid for the services being vacated.”
The county is still asking Progressive Waste Solutions (formerly known as Choice Environmental) for its financial records. Harris said PWS must decide before Oct. 1 whether to continue as the county’s solid waste hauler.
“Still to be determined is the amount to increase the Solid Waste Non-Ad Valorem Assessment,” Gavarrete wrote. He expects the cost of collecting recyclables to increase $1 million per year for the county’s 35,398 households.
“We’re taking a very hard look at the financial impact. We’re going to discuss that at the meeting,” Harris said. “If we do nothing for the next five years, it’s the best thing for our county. We’ve got the best garbage prices around, and we’re not mandated by the state to recycle.”
As more counties recycle more materials, the price of glass, paper, metals and plastic have declined, Commissioner Don Elwell said. “It’s a pure example of supply and demand.”
Whether PSW picks up its option to pick up curbside solid waste for the next five years, Harris said the best time for the county to negotiate a solid waste and recycling hauling contract is when both are negotiated together. “That’s when we’ll get great bids, great prices.”
“We should be working toward recycling,” Harris said, “but when we get to 2020, I don’t know if the state is going to mandate it or not.”
State law doesn’t mention punishment for counties which do not comply with recycling goals, Harris said.
If the county “has not reached the recycling goals, the law says, the state “may direct the county to develop a plan to expand recycling programs... Nothing in this act or in any rule adopted by any agency shall be construed to require any county or municipality to participate in any regional solid waste management or regional resource recovery program until the governing body of such county or municipality has determined that participation in such a program is economically feasible.”