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Universal curbside recycling in St. Pete is right around the corner

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Curbside recycling is finally kicking off in St. Pete this summer. Leading up to the July launch of the long-anticipated program, St. Pete City Council members got an update on plans for a seamless rollout during a meeting Thursday.

The city will start delivering bins to homes as soon as May, but don’t get too excited. Filling those bins up with recycling before July will mean a smelly can waiting through several hot summer months before being picked up.

Because delivering some 80,000 bins is a hefty task, the city will have to get started before the program also begins.

The marketing plan is also well underway to let residents know about the program, what items can and can’t be recycled and how to make sure the new utility perk works best for everyone.

The large blue bins being delivered to homes will have an illustration on the lid identifying which day of the week that home’s recycling will be picked up. There will also be a do and do not graphic of items to recycle. Pick-up days are bi-weekly.

The bins will also contain an RFID chip that drivers can use to notify program leaders of blocked containers and containers with items inside them that cannot be recycled.

The city is also developing a website that will allow residents to learn more about recyclables. The site will also allow residents to sign up for notifications on recycling pick-up days.

Council member Karl Nurse suggested that marketing efforts include kids noting that before seatbelts were a must-use thing, it was often kids nagging parents to buckle up. The city’s marketing team said they do have a budget for reaching out to local schools to educate kids about the program.

And Amy Foster worried residents who are in the earlier batch of bin deliveries may think they have the green light to start dumping recyclables into bins. Her concerns were also quelled by staff members who explained each bin will be delivered with a starter kit. That includes the date service begins.

“Everyone knows that there’s gong to be some hiccups,” council member Darden Rice said.

She said the key to success is not just in getting bins delivered, but engaging the citizens who will be using them.

The city has set a benchmark for performance once the program launches in July. They expect recycling to pick up by at least 10 percent once curbside kicks off.

The program also comes with some new artwork. The city has redesigned Mr. Sparkle. The smiling garbage can’s face will grace the new pick-up trucks the city will be using to pick up recycling. Mr. Sparkles is actually more than 40 years old, but he looks brand new with the added touch-ups.

In all, the city’s recycling program is opening 16 full-time jobs including drivers, specialists and supervisors. Those positions will all be filled by the end of April.

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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