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Pensacola OKs New Recycling Deal with ECUA

WUWF Public Media

On a 7-0 vote, the Pensacola City Council has approved a contract with Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, for the processing of recyclables.

City Council approval is but the first step. The proposal is scheduled to go before the ECUA Board on June 28. If approved, it would take effect on July 2, ending a nine-month period of no recycling service in Pensacola.

“We’re ready to get this agreement with ECUA, but we’re going to need everybody’s help in the community to make sure that we’re doing recycling right,” said City Administrator Eric Olson, who has been under fire in some circles for recyclers being kept in the dark during that period.

Tarpon Paper of Loxley, Alabama stopped accepting loads from Pensacola last September, and their contract expired in March. Olson addressed the issue last month.

“Our processor just hasn’t been able to find a buyer for the materials that they process, said Olson. “It’s backed up, and we’re at the tail-end of that and we have to take it to the landfill.”

During Thursday’s Council meeting, he said that many residents tend to throw non-recyclable materials into the khaki-colored cans, along with recyclables which are contaminated.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Part of the ECUA Recycling Facility at Perdido.

“Recycling’s kind of a dicey industry right now; we’ve got to keep our recyclables clean if we’re going to make this successful.” Olson said. “Don’t participate in wishful recycling, which is ‘I wish this could be recycled, so I threw it in the recycling bin.’ Bowling balls, hangars, plastic bags, diapers, dead fish – they can’t be recycled.”

A number of speakers appeared before the Council, some of them seeking an apology for what they consider nine months of deception by the city. Councilwoman Sherri Myers stepped up to the plate.

“We are the governing body, and the buck stops with us; so I do want to personally apologize to the citizens of Pensacola,” said Myers. “And I will try to be more on top of these issues.”

Myers also offered a suggestion to Olson, on how to clear up any confusion about what goes into a recycling can, and what stays out.

“Put notices on all of those cans, that are conspicuous and easy to read,” Myers said. “At least 14-point font.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” said Olson. “It’s one I’m happy to report that staff’s already had that idea, that’s what they’re working on.”

For Councilman Brian Spencer, securing a recycling contract is job number one-A; rebuilding the public’s trust in the program should top the agenda.

“Maybe we can consult a marriage counselor, that advices couples after there’s been something like infidelity,” said Spencer, tongue-in-cheek.

Turning serious, Spencer then said, “We’ve got a big trust factor out in the community. I think we need to do a massive program that says, ‘You can trust us when we say you’re recycling, we actually are recycling.”

No concrete figures are out as yet, but it’s believed the City of Pensacola will pay roughly the same rate – five dollars per ton – that ECUA charges other governments in the area. That’s about half the amount paid to Tarpon Paper.

“I don’t expect that it will be any different than the contracts that have been established with other municipalities such as Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa County, et cetera,” said ECUA Spokeswoman Nathalie Bowers last month.

Pensacola would join 10 other cities and counties in northwest Florida and south Alabama – along with the firm Allied Waste Services -- in using ECUA’s facility.