County's south without place to leave glass for recycling

Glass bottles and jars have been piling up in Elena Tovey's garage. Then, the pile started spilling over."Now it's piling up outside," Tovey said.

"Those who have been recycling for the better part of our lives ... I just can't throw the glass away."

Tovey is one of the more than 23,000 residents in southern St. Johns County without a local place to drop off glass for recycling.

In October 2003, the Board of County Commissioners said it would set up drop-off sites for glass recycling following its decision to terminate the curbside program.

The county has set up six sites, but continues to search for a location near St. Augustine South.

"It's ridiculous," said Tovey, who lives off Kings Road. "I'm sure a lot of people are frustrated."

Chris Benjamin, environmental coordinator at the county's Solid Waste Management department, may share that frustration.

He first tried to negotiate a site at the Food Lion parking lot, then the Kmart parking lot, but to no avail.

"We're dealing with private property owners, and that's a very tricky thing," he said. "I'm running out of big venues and big parking lots."

However, he said the problem is not space -- a container takes up about one parking place -- but other trash the containers attract.

People tend to throw trash in and around the containers although signs indicate they are for glass recycling only. And property owners don't want that extra trash problem.

Benjamin said he will continue to search for a recycling site in the south and wants to concentrate on property south of State Road 312.

Meanwhile, County Commissioner Bruce Maguire said he wants to ensure curbside recycling is eventually reinstated.

He said the program was eliminated as part of the bidding process.

When it came time for the county to reopen the contract for waste and recycling pickup, county staff had heard that BFI, the former contractor, was going to stop taking glass. Since BFI was the only company in the area that took glass, the requirement to take glass was taken out of the bid.

The county awarded five-year contracts to Seaboard Waste Systems and Advanced Disposal Services.

Meanwhile, BFI changed its decision to stop collecting glass.

"BFI recanted and will stay open," Maguire said.

The County Commission wanted to reinstate glass recycling at that point, but the non ad valorem tax assessments, which included garbage and recycling, were already advertised, Maguire said. The law didn't allow the county to use other funds for the assessment, so the county set up the glass recycling sites.

On Oct. 1, the start of the county's fiscal year, the commission will amend the contracts and add the costs to the tax bills, he said.

"I'm sure that all the commissioners will ensure this will happen," Maguire said.

He said glass recycling has created the greatest response of any issue before him.

"It's not an interest, it's a commitment to recycle glass," he said.

St. Augustine Shores resident Todd Huddleston said he doesn't mind the 45-minute round trip to the landfill, but said it would be nice to have some place closer to drop off his glass.

"I'd rather have it more convenient," he said. "I still save all my glass containers ... I'm not going to throw it out."

Meanwhile, he and his wife have altered their shopping habits. Huddleston said they are buying more products in plastic to limit the trips to the landfill.

Tovey also hauls her glass to the landfill when she has the time but said she is willing to pay the extra money to reinstate curbside recycling.

"I think I'm spending more gas money to drive to the landfill," Tovey said.

The operational drop-off sites include: Julington Creek County Annex, Ponte Vedra Beach Winn-Dixie, Crescent Beach Fire Station and the Tillman Ridge landfill in Elkton. The Hastings site opened this week at the fire station, and many don't know there is a container at the Belz Factory Outlet World, Benjamin said.

A fax from the county administration office said the Ponte Vedra Beach location has been receiving more glass than projected and will get an extra bin at the fire station in Ponte Vedra Beach South.

"That was the first container we placed," Benjamin said. "And people are using it."

Benjamin said the second container will be placed as soon as it is built.

600450 County's south without place to leave glass for recycling

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