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Jacksonville's waste problems remain unsolved

Garbage cans.jpg

After four months of work, a committee studying Jacksonville's troubled garbage collection system listed a number of issues to study further, including higher fees for consumers.

The committee's final report included several recommendations about educating residents to recycle properly, and six of 15 recommendations listed topics to explore further.

The recommendations included two items involving waste fees:

  • Explore differential solid waste fees based on size of property / amount of trash cans.
  • Explore the Council Auditor’s suggestions for solid waste fee options, including consideration of implementation of automatic price escalation, based on CPI or other formulas.

City Council President Sam Newby established the special committee in February to "perform an in-depth and comprehensive examination" of missed waste pickups, which led to the suspension of curbside recycling for six months.

Recycling was suspended in October and resumed in April, making Jacksonville the only large municipality in the state to suspend recycling for an extended period.

Recycling remains suspended in Clay County, 10 months after it was stopped. Clay is discussing a number of changes to shore up its system, but Waste Management remains 14 drivers short of the number it needs.

Among the problems in Jacksonville: a shortage of drivers, inadequate fees, improper recycling by consumers and inefficient hauling, including the need for a transfer station so drivers don't have to trek to the landfill with every load.

The committee was charged with "an in-depth and comprehensive examination" of the solid waste and recycling system. Members were to "examine whether there are any changes needed to the services and service levels currently offered" and "study how best to fund the solid waste and recycling operations to reliably achieve the desired service level in the most cost effective manner."

Much of the committee's discussion focused on residents' recycling practices. People who don't follow the rules contaminate the recycling stream and reduce revenue.

In addition, the committee wrestled with whether to drop materials from its recycling program that don't generate profit or recoup costs, particularly glass.

The committee met six times from February to May. You can find recordings of the meetings here.

Here are the rest of the committee's recommendations:

  • Continue discussions regarding recycling glass by providing a product that meets the needs of the market.
  • Explore additional steps to raise the profit margin for glass, including use of local producers that utilize recycled glass.
  • Public Works Department to provide TEU with annual review of current market conditions for glass and other recyclable items, including the reexamination of past committee efforts to address historic concerns.
  • Provide significant education to citizens on proper curbside recycling.
  • Provide funding for recycling education with the annual budget.
  • Explore a process to encourage apartments, condos, and businesses to recycle.
  • Implement the Waste Wizard app.
  • Encourage use of city website for curbside recycling information.
  • Support of the transfer station and find ways to expedite the process.
  • Use odor suppressants to minimize smell.
  • Educate the public that recycling doesn’t go in plastic bags.
  • Explore incinerators, to minimize need for landfill space.
  • Explore large scale composting / encourage composting / saving landfill space.

Read the committee's report below.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at rroguski@wjct.org or on Twitter, @rroguski.