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If your neighbor got a blue recycling bin and you didn’t, don’t worry, it’ll get there

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The City of St. Petersburg is in the process of delivering 90-gallon blue bins for curbside recycling. About half of St. Pete residents have already received the bins.

The city established eight separate zones to determine both when bins would be delivered and when, once recycling actually begins, pickups will occur. Odd-numbered zones have already received them, while those in even-numbered zones have not.

Areas already boasting visible signs of the long-awaited program include South St. Pete, downtown, Coquina Key, Old Southeast, parts of Historic Kenwood, West St. Pete and those living between Fifth Avenue North and 38 Avenue North between 34 Street and 58 Street.

While a map on the city’s website shows zone boundaries and most residents can clearly see which zone they are in, some residents on the borders may be a little confused.

I know this because I’m one of them.

For example, all of the residents on the south side of my block have received the bins. Those of us on the north side of the block have not. That’s because it appears one side of the block is in an odd-numbered zone while my side is in an even number.

There are a number of areas in the city where this confusion could be a problem. Zones 5 and 7 share a border with zone 8. So people on the north side of Fifth Avenue North between 19 and 58 Street have probably all received bins while their neighbors on the other side of the street may still be waiting.

The same goes for parts of 22 Avenue South and west Central Avenue and a handful of other areas.

For those looking across the street at a neighbor’s shiny new blue bin with either jealousy or concern, rest assured yours is coming. The residents in round two of bin drop-off should be receiving them sometime between now and the end of June.

For those who look at curbside recycling as sham, tough cookies. Your bins are coming, too, like it or not. While residents do have the option to decline a bin, they still have to pay for the service whether or not they use it.

Each bin will be marked with one of eight stickers identifying the pick up date. There are A stickers and B stickers each numbered 1-8. Those with a gray A1 sticker will get the first recycling pickup on Monday, June 29. Those with a blue B8 sticker will be the last to start the program with pickup starting on Friday, July 10. All the others will be picked up sometime between those dates. Specifics are on individual bins.

Collection occurs every other week. Those with bins marked A will have their recycling picked up one week, while B bins will be collected the alternating weeks. There is no pickup on Wednesdays.

While the early bin drop-offs were necessary for the city to have enough time to ensure all residents received a bin before the collections started, it too has already caused confusion.

A quick drive around neighborhoods that already have them will yield any number of full-bin sightings. The city has created a robust information section about the program reminding ratepayers when collections start and how to identify individual pickup days.

The bins were also delivered with packets informing users not to begin using the bins until a specified date. But a stroll through the ‘burg shows not everyone is paying attention.

Another observation – some bins have remained unmoved since being delivered weeks ago. One multi-family property with four bins near Tropicana Field has the cans sitting awkwardly in the yard seemingly unnoticed by residents.

It begs the question; will curbside be effective in St. Pete? One, many residents seem to have ignored directions. Two, many other residents can’t seem to even be bothered by moving the bins into a yard or closer to their property.

The city will charge every ratepayer in the city $2.95 for the program whether or not they use it. That surcharge could go down as residents use the program more. The more St. Pete recycles, the closer the program comes to paying for itself.

That’s a basic concept the city points out in its frequently asked questions section about the program. They also encourage participation because “recycling is good for the environment and it creates jobs” and because “recycling saves energy.”

The proposed fee is based on a projection of how much the city needs to charge to offset the cost of the program. If residents don’t participate to a larger extent than the city forecasted, those fees could, theoretically, increase. But if participation exceeds, the opposite could be the case.

The city’s goal is to increase its recycling tonnage steadily over the next 10 years.

The website also includes a list of recycling do’s and don’ts so residents can “participate, not contaminate.”

Things like pizza boxes and plastic grocery bags are a no-no. Residents should also make sure no food-particles are in the recycling.

For people who already pay for the optional recycling service, those pickups will end at the end of this month.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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