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Largo recycling program a success
Staff: 73 percent of eligible Largo residents are recycling at least monthly
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Seventy-three percent of eligible Largo residents are recycling at least monthly
LARGO – Since launching the expanded curbside recycling program six months ago, the city of Largo has reduced the amount of trash it delivers to the landfill by 887 tons, or 1,774,200 pounds.

That amounts to $159,525 in disposal fee savings, said recycling coordinator Marissa Segundo during a commission work session Aug. 12.

“We’ve very happy with the participation rate. It has exceeded our expectations,” she said.

Using new radio frequency identification technology embedded into the new recycling carts, the city is able to determine that about 45 percent of residents who have the blue recycling carts are using them on a weekly basis. About 73 percent leave the cart at the curb at least monthly while 89 percent have taken advantage of the new program at least once since its start.

The city will reach out to the remaining 11 percent, but Public Works Director Brian Usher said at least some of that could be attributed to seasonal residents.

Segundo said the city had expected the expanded program to give an “initial jump” in recycling participation before leveling off at a lower level, especially during the summer. But there hasn’t been a drop in recycling yet.

“Luckily, we’ve seen a very consistent participation,” Segundo said.

The amount of recycled material collected between February and June this year has increased 59 percent as compared to last year.

“We love it. Everybody loves it,” said Pat Gerard, voicing the sentiments echoed by commissioners.

Along with collecting more recyclable materials, the expanded program includes GPS tracking via a tablet kept in the recycling trucks. This allows solid waste manager Michael Gordon to monitor the trucks, coaching drivers to more efficient routes and helping to protect them from unfounded resident complaints. The GPS tracking has gone over surprisingly well, Gordon said.

“We worked with the union; we made no secret of what we were doing,” he said.

The new system has capacity for growth, whether that be in collecting a new material or adding more homes, Usher said.

Staff is currently working on extending the program to commercial customers, Segundo said. But even now, businesses could start collecting glass, plastic containers Nos. 1 through 7, paper cartons and metal food cans in bins the city picks up, she said.

City staff did ask residents to keep plastic bags out of their recycling bins. If the plastic bags are tied up and filled, even with premium recyclable material like shredded paper, the mixed use recycling facility will throw the bags away rather than process them. Such “contaminated” material like plastic bags and Styrofoam reduces the revenue the city receives from the facility.

But overall, the city was pleased that Largo residents have collected mostly clean recyclable material, Usher said.

“We have not seen numbers like this in the surrounding communities,” he said.

During the meeting Aug. 12, commissioners also gave final approval of 70 voluntary annexations. The 120 parcels – representing 34.9 acres of land and $32,515 in estimated city property taxes – marked the second batch of pending annexations commissioners asked city staff to finalize.
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