Disappearing, reappearing act

The magic show proved to be such a success that many weren’t even aware a disappearing act took place.Although those affected by the event did not witness the trucks hauling away the recycling bins, they did notice the empty gaps where recycling bins once stood.

The Solid Waste Department removed the recycling bins, which they owned, from the Sycamore Drive location on the USF campus in December 2001. The Solid Waste Department returned the bins to the USF Recycling Center on Jan. 25. At least one person questioned the waste department decision to remove the bins.

Michelle Mician, a USF graduate student in the environmental science and policy department, forwarded an online petition to several listservs, urging people to contact the Tampa City Council as well as the Solid Waste Department to demand the recycling bins be brought back.

“It was a plan for me to get people’s attention,” Mician said. “Not to be a leader, but to get the ball rolling.

“Mician provided the information to make people aware of the bins’ removal and provided contact numbers so that people could voice their opinion.

Barbara Heineken, recycling coordinator for the Solid Waste Department, said the removal of the bins from USF’s campus was part of a bigger plan to remove all 14 sites throughout the city of Tampa. The Solid Waste Department removed the bins around Tampa in order to usher in citywide curbside recycling. Originally, there were 23 sites. But due to a combination of people contaminating the containers, the presence of debris; and facilities, such as, Wal-Mart, asking that the containers be removed, the Solid Waste Department decreased the number.

The citywide curbside recycling program came about “… because people complained to the City Council that they didn’t have curbside recycling while others did have it,” said Heineken, referring solely to home owners and renters.

“They thought it was unfair … that they didn’t have it, as well,” said Heineken.

However, with the inception of the new citywide curbside recycling program, some people felt slighted. Their discontent stemmed from the dynamics of the new program in which those with a curb, meaning those who rent or own a home, automatically receive the service, while those people living in apartments, condominiums and campus housing do not.

Mician’s main concern was for people living in apartments or on campus who didn’t fit into the City Council’s plan.

“They didn’t accept people in the low-income bracket,” said Mician.

Bob Buckorn, a City Council member, said in hindsight they overlooked apartment renters’ needs and that the city council would have to revisit the issue.

“I received a number of calls,” Buckhorn said. “People were worried that because they lived in an apartment, they weren’t going to receive recycling,” he said.

Some apartment renters, who used the USF recycling center, said they didn’t have a way to recycle because they weren’t home owners or renters.

“I was really upset because I live in an apartment complex, and I can’t do curbside recycling,” said Sarah Nuding, a research associate for the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at USF’s College of Medicine.

Mician said the City Council’s plan emerged through myriad influences that interact with one another to bring about change. She said she does not blame any one person or group, rather she thinks the City Council overlooked certain citizens’ needs.

However, Tony McBride, deputy director for the Solid Waste Department, said a person living in the city of Tampa must gain his or her management’s consent to receive the service. The manager must then contact the recycling coordinator. The city will subsequently set up the recycling containers and provide the hauling service free of charge.

Currently, the Solid Waste Department accommodates 6,000 apartments and intends to service more apartments in the future.However, if a person lives outside the city of Tampa but within Hillsborough County, then that individual has to find an alternative solution, Heineken said.

“Hillsborough County needs to (provide recycling programs),” she said. “Those people need to contact their elected officials.”People who recycled at the USF site were from the county rather than the city, McBride said.

Dorothy Monroe, assistant for the USF campus recycling program, said people came from Hyde Park, Hunter’s Green and Pasco County. One student collects recyclable items from individuals at her community college and brings them to the USF site, Monroe said.

“They come from all over. I sit out there just to see where people come from,” Monroe said.

Although Monroe wanted to buy new bins to replace the old ones, she said she didn’t have the resources. Because of budget cuts, Monroe couldn’t afford to buy new bins and pay for the material to be hauled away.

Monroe said Smurfit-Stone, a paper company, provides the newspaper and magazine bins in exchange for the material collected. The recycling program receives $10-$15 for every ton of paper products collected. That money then circulates back into the program, but it is not enough to cover the $100 price tag of dumping one bin once a week, Monroe said.

“I looked at whatever I could do to keep the site running,” Monroe said.

Monroe directed students and other residents to the county’s two transfer sites so they could recycle. One transfer site, Hillsborough County Northwest Solid Waste Facility, is located on West Linebaugh Avenue, approximately 35 minutes from USF, while the other transfer site, Hillsborough Heights, is located on Highway 579 in Seffner.

However, those individuals without the time or the money couldn’t afford to drive such a distance, Mician said. This led Mician and other people to contact the City Council as well as the Solid Waste Department.

McBride said he also took into consideration that the USF recycling center was a popular site.

“After getting a couple of phone calls, it made me rethink my decision,” McBride said . “It (bringing back the bins to USF) was the right thing to do.”