Residents should share their views on the future of trash/recyclable collections in The Villages

We applaud those who attended recent meetings in The Villages on the future of recycling and trash collection, as well as the rising costs associated with both.

And once again we tip our hat to District Manager Richard Baier for putting those meetings together in an attempt to get in front of problem before it actually hits the mega-retirement community – a proactive strategy some of the Villages brass might consider embracing for a change every now and then.

By now we’re guessing that just about everybody in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown is aware that big changes are coming to recycling and trash collection. They aren’t going to happen tomorrow or even next week. But with China limiting the amounts of recyclables it accepts from the United States and costs associated with sorting those items continuing to soar, it’s just a matter of time before the things you typically recycle will change drastically.

In an effort to educate Villagers about these coming changes, the North Sumter County Utility Dependent District Board (NSCUDD) has played host to two meetings. NSCUDD is the water, wastewater and reclaimed water service provider to properties in The Villages that are south of County Road 466 and north of County Road 466A. Additionally, NSCUDD is the provider of solid waste sanitation services for Marion and Sumter County, and the Fruitland Park portion of The Villages.

John Wood, global practice director for waste hauler Jacobs, has given the comprehensive presentations – the first one came in June at Laurel Manor Recreation Center and the second one this past Thursday at Mulberry Grove Recreation Center – detailing the current state of recycling and trash collection, as well as concerns about the future. Jacobs is the waste hauler for Community Development Districts 1 through 11 in The Villages and Wood’s presentations are timely because the District is working to develop a future solid waste plan.

At the most recent gathering, information provided by Wood showed that the monthly fee paid by Villagers for waste hauling – $17.90 since 2012 – isn’t enough. That issue was the impetus for the NSCUDD to recently raise its monthly household assessment for trash collection to $19.38 for 2020. That increase will be followed by nine consecutive annual increases of 2.5 percent and the money will be used to pay for previously issued bonds.

Woods also shared some alarming statistics about trash collection in The Villages. He said that in 2018, collection included: 

  • 22,000 tons of household trash;
  • 11,120 tons of recyclables;
  • 7,600 tons of commercial trash;
  • 6,780 tons of yard waste; and
  • 10,000 tons of bulk pickup (including old furniture, BBQ grills and appliances)

One of the big issues is that recyclables from the community are taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MFR) in Tampa, where they are sorted. Recyclables are processed at $28.35 per ton and as you can imagine, the sorting is extremely labor intensive and growing more costly.

“We are going to see that $28.35 per ton increase dramatically,” Wood predicted.

At Thursday’s meeting, Jacobs distributed clickers for Villagers to use in providing their opinions as to whether they’d be willing to pay more for recycling pickup and bulk waste pickup.

Not surprisingly, while many believed the on-demand bulk pickup should merit an additional user fee, many felt exactly the opposite about additional fees for recycling. In fact, the majority feared an additional recycling fee would encourage residents to stop doing it altogether and just dump all of their recyclables in the trash.

Currently, the rate of recycling in The Villages is 37.1 percent – higher than the national average of 34.7 percent. And in the Sunshine State overall, it’s a whopping 54 percent. So, you can see that the changes coming down the road are going to affect a lot of people and could easily play on the emotions of those who see their recycling efforts as highly important in the fight to protect our environment.

But while there are plenty of unknowns going forward, there are some things you’ll be able to count on. For instance, there will be big changes to the items that go in your recycling bags. We’re not sure exactly what will and won’t be allowed. But if trends across the country continue the way they are today, you can pretty much count on newspapers becoming a huge no-no.

When that happens – and it will at some point – you’ll have to toss those bulky, quickly outdated pulp products in with your regular trash. So, while your trash bin fills up faster, newspaper companies will quietly stop patting themselves on the back for printing on recycled paper.

We’re also guessing many of you have questions about where your trash goes when it leaves your driveway. Believe it or not, it’s currently being taken to a landfill in Georgia, where NSCUDD pays a tipping fee of $28.35 per ton. But that agreement is set to expire soon, which means even more changes in the world of trash are likely – changes we guarantee will affect each of you in some way or another.

So, what does the future hold? That’s yet to be determined, as the process of change is just beginning. But Wood hit the nail square on the head when he said it’s important for The Villages to begin to identify a path forward and then set a budget.

As we said in June after the first meeting, we commend Baier for being on top of this issue long before many of his counterparts in government will even consider addressing it. Baier has a history of being open and transparent when it comes to issues facing Villagers. And because of his actions, residents should consider themselves fortunate to be included in the conversation about the future of trash/recycling at such an early stage.

That said, we’d also like to applaud each of you who has attended one of the informational meetings or started the process of getting yourself up to speed on this issue. We are huge believers in the public being educated about things that are happening in their communities. And we’re even bigger advocates of residents who aren’t afraid to get involved and gladly will share their opinions on such an important topic.