The City of Pensacola is evaluating changes to recycling and sanitation services for City Sanitation customers, with a goal of improving services and minimizing ineffective recycling efforts.
The City of Pensacola Sanitation Services Department currently uses ECUA's Materials Recycling Facility to process recyclable materials from City Sanitation customers. Starting Oct. 1, 2023, the city will no longer use ECUA's facility and will end citywide curbside recycling for City Sanitation customers.
After Oct. 1, the City of Pensacola will continue to work proactively to determine an effective recycling solution with ECUA, which may include opt-in curbside recycling services and/or a staffed drop-off recycling facility in partnership with ECUA.
The Effectiveness of Recycling
Like many cities throughout the United States, the City of Pensacola is facing challenges with the cost and effectiveness of recycling, particularly plastics.
The most recent data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimated the 2018 plastic recycling rate to be 8.7%, but EPA hasn't reported U.S. recycling rates since publishing that data in 2020. Current recycling rates are estimated to be even lower, with the current U.S. plastic recycling rate estimated to be between 5 and 6%, according to a report from Beyond Plastics. (Sources: NPR, Beyond Plastics report, Greenpeace report)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is changing?
A: Starting Oct. 1, 2023, the city will end citywide curbside recycling for City Sanitation customers. The city is evaluating options for a more effective recycling solution with ECUA, which may include opt-in curbside recycling services and/or a staffed drop-off recycling facility in partnership with ECUA. While this change takes place, the administration is actively looking at more effective recycling alternatives for all Pensacola residents to use.
Q: Why is the city ending curbside recycling?
A: Recycling from City Sanitation customers averaged more than 50% contamination when delivered to ECUA's recycling facility, resulting in the loads being rejected and taken to the landfill instead of being recycled as intended.
Due to rising costs associated with recycling, ECUA increased its drop-off rates for municipal customers including the City of Pensacola’s Sanitation Department. In order to continue mandatory curbside recycling service for all customers, the city would have needed to increase rates for all City Sanitation customers.
This change will allow the city to evaluate the effectiveness of recycling and determine the most viable solution. The city's goal is to ensure that customers who want to recycle can have confidence that their efforts are as effective as possible.
Q: Does the city not care about recycling?
A: The City of Pensacola absolutely values recycling, and we are urgently looking at recycling solutions to ensure that residents who want to recycle can do so impactfully. Options include implementing opt-in curbside recycling for an additional fee, which would help ensure that participants are motivated to recycle properly, and/or a staffed drop-off recycling facility in partnership with ECUA.
Q: What are the next steps?
A: The city is working on details for a one-year pilot program that will be implemented after curbside recycling ends on Oct. 1, 2023. This pilot program may include opt-in curbside recycling services, or the option for customers to have curbside garbage collection twice a week in lieu of recycling.
Q: What if I don't need twice a week garbage collection?
A: Since the change to twice a week garbage collection would be implemented through a one-year pilot program, it will allow the city to evaluate its effectiveness. With the level of recycling contamination for city customers averaging over 50%, it is expected that some customers may not fully realize the need for additional garbage capacity for the nonrecyclable items they were previously putting in their recycling cans.
Q: If the city is ending curbside recycling, why isn't my bill being lowered?
A: Ending citywide curbside recycling is actually a cost neutral option for City Sanitation customers. Without this change, all City Sanitation customers would have seen their bills increase after Oct. 1 to continue citywide curbside recycling. Escambia County ECUA will continue to offer curbside recycling for its customers, with a proposed rate increase of 9.5%. The city will not see an increase caused by the switch to twice-a-week garbage pickup.
Q: How can I stay informed?
A: Additional details will be announced to customers as they are finalized, and before the changes are implemented. Stay tuned to cityofpensacola.com and the City of Pensacola Facebook for updates. Customers will also receive information in the mail prior to implementation.
Summit Boulevard Recycling Center