Friday, September 14, 2007

Fees Increasing For Money Losing Recycling

Fees For Recycling Added To Tax Bills

LABELLE, FL. -- Operating from county waste fees collected on every county real estate parcel, and an additional fee new this year, The Hendry County recycling centers in LaBelle and Clewiston will be adding curbside pickup of recycling items in the future. The county loses money every year handling the recycling of bottles, plastic and paper items, and all other materials that are brought to the county for recycling, but has convinced the county commission to expand the money losing operation.

Just how much money the county loses is unknown or at least not being accounted for.  Calls to the county special districts office that handles the recycling operation left the question of how much money is spent or income received from sales of recycled items   unanswered.

Juan Gaure, district supervisor of the recycle centers says most people don't know that the large dumpsters around the county are brought to the recycling center where the items are sorted by hand.  Plastic bottle caps from plastic and glass bottles are all  removed by hand before they are sorted and sold to out of area recycling companies. Gaure says green glass bottles, which typically contained bottle water, are actually worthless and are a money loser for the county.  It costs much more to collect, sort and ship green glass than what they can be sold for.  There is an over supply of green colored glass worldwide, and no market for anyone to sell it at a high enough price to make it profitable to recycle. Even so, the public sends tons of green glass to recycling centers yearly.

Fee Sneaks Into Tax Bills

To encourage more recycling, even at a probable high cost to taxpayers, the Hendry Special Districts office has asked the county commission for a vote this month to add an extra $38 per household on real estate taxes for on-street pickup of materials for recycling. The hidden extra fee is listed as a "commercial dumpster" charge on the proposed non-ad valorem tax letter sent to property owners last week with the proposed tax bills.  Terri Cross, manager of the county's special districts office says the fee will pay for weekly street pickup at curbside of "recycle" items as well as for twice a year large debris trash pickups.

When asked how much recycling is costing the county and taxpayers and how much income is generated from the recycled paper, plastic, metal, and glass collected, sorted, and then sold by the county, she had no answer.  Cross said she has not calculated this but would find out for the Sunday Morning News when asked for profit or loss cost.  After two weeks no response has been received from the accounting request.

Guare  says the county makes much more money from cardboard and paper products than from plastic materials, and encourages households to bring all paper and glass items to the collection bins. Gaure also recommends citizens place recycle items in the bins located around the county, and use the recycle centers only for toxic items, such as paint, batteries and electronics.

Not accepted for recycling are Styrofoam, plastic grocery bags, and envelopes with plastic windows. Also do not deposit pottery, dishes, or other ceramic glassware.

And how much is the county losing on its recycling program? The issue is still unresolved as two staff members say they don't have the numbers available and would have to research it. Presumably, the county commissioners do not know the answer either, notwithstanding their votes to go ahead with additional recycling for Hendry county and bill the taxpayers for the costs.

Hendry County Recycling Webpage - lists of items county can recycle and hours of operation of two recycling centers.

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