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Pensacola recycling returns to Summit


After a cleanup and refurbishment, the dumpsters at the new and improved Summit Boulevard Recycling Center are going back into service. It’s a part of the city’s overall green initiative.

Although the center is not yet open for business, when it does, it will be open 24/7. A ribbon-cutting was held at the facility Monday with a number of city officials, including Mayor Grover Robinson. The site was closed a few years ago after people began dumping prohibited materials, such as Styrofoam while trashing the site.

“Ninety-five percent of the people do it right in what they recycle, but we always have 5% of the people who just want to dump stuff,” the mayor said. “We have 24-hour surveillance here, so making sure that we can find out who those five percent of the people who are dumping stuff and not doing this in a legal way, and be able to address that.”

The site offers additional recycling opportunities in time for the holidays, with three containers for proper disposal of cardboard, plastic, glass, and more. Signage at the center will list what’s acceptable and what’s not.

“We want to do the same in any of the centers that we bring; we want to bring it to other places in the community — we have that idea,” said Robinson. “But we only want to bring it there if we can do it responsively, and we think we can. This is the pilot, but we plan to have other kickoff sites that we would like to do this.”

Two containers will be used for cardboard only. Cardboard boxes must be broken down and placed through the slots on the sides of the dumpsters. Container number three is for other recyclable materials. Household garbage and yard waste are not accepted.

“I’ve done this in other communities, and I think it’s about time for us to go to the next level when it comes to recycling,” said John Pittman, the city’s Sanitation Director. “We always want to encourage our citizens to recycle, so we didn’t have any other place to bring the recycling.”

While most recyclables are collected from residences, the Summit location, says Pittman, can also help with home safety.

“You’ve got the big cardboard boxes from Christmas, and you don’t want to put them on the curb because it sends a message to the people that maybe want to break into your home,” Pittman said. “So you don’t have to put that on the curb; you can bring it here to our drop-off center. Break it down, put it in there, and be good to go.”

And it’s not just recyclables that have the city’s attention in getting greener. A number of programs are underway at Pensacola Energy — the city-owned natural gas and garbage collection agency. Among them, says Director Don Suarez, is CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) motor fuel.

“In fact, out of the 738 vehicles that the city has, 83 of those vehicles are fueled by natural gas,” said Pensacola Energy Director Don Suarez. “Because of that, those 83 vehicles have emitted over 700 metric tons of [carbon dioxide] less than they would have, had they been fueled by gasoline or diesel. So, that’s a good step in the right direction.”

Another project at Pensacola Energy deals with carbon offsets. Suarez describes that as a new concept, for which they’ve signed a five-year contract to take carbon offset natural gas.

“There are independent auditors that verify that the forestland is assigned to our gas supply; so that’s what we’re doing — we’re testing to see just how accurate that verification is,” he said.

For now, that exploration is taking baby steps, according to Suarez.

“The industry advises us to be cautious about carbon offsets because you need to know who you’re doing business with,” said Suarez. “We’re doing business with one of the largest — if not the largest — natural gas producer in the world, BP. And so, we have confidence that it’s verifiable; but we want to investigate that further.”

In round figures, the carbon offset natural gas costs about 10% more wholesale, because of the cost of setting aside the land in question. But Suarez adds that the program will not show up in residential gas bills, thanks to a pre-paid natural gas contract.

“And that’s something only municipal systems can take part in because municipal bonds are issued to buy a long-term supply of gas; both with the tax-free nature of municipal bonds and lower interest rates, we’re able to derive a discount to the gas,” Suarez said. “It’s around 30 cents, but if offsets most of that at a premium.”

And Mayor Grover Robinson announced a special meeting of the City Council on homelessness is set for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. In council chambers.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.