WSI (the company hired by the city to handle the curbside recycling program in St. Petersburg) told the city yesterday that they would not be renewing their contract in October, effectively ending what one CONA representative called “a half-hearted attempt to recycle”. The program was pushed by Foster last year as the best option for offering curbside recycling in the city, but only a few months later it was clear that the program was not very popular and was not cost-effective for WSI.
So how did Mayor Foster manage to mess up something so simple and universally successful that every other community in the county does it at a higher participation rate?
The first problem is that the city made it voluntary so each resident had to sign up for it individually. In a process that could take over a month, residents wanting to sign up for the $2.75 a month program had to call in to a phone number during certain hours and wait on hold until they got to someone to take their registration(no web sign-up was allowed). Then they would have to wait a few weeks until the bins would show up at their house, hopefully. Most other local curbside recycling programs are community-wide, spreading the cost as well as making it easier for everyone to participate. In Foster’s bid to nickle-and-dime us yet again, he took something that would have succeeded and not cost much money per resident, and made it optional and difficult to sign up for, so it failed.
The second problem is that it was not promoted very well by the city, an insert in the water bill and an advertisement on the city’s website does not constitute proper promotion. Why not try putting stickers on the city-owned garbage cans that almost every resident has to use to throw away their trash? There is no better time than when people are throwing stuff away to remind them it can be recycled, but as the Mayor has made painfully clear, he has a hard time thinking outside the box, and public outreach is not his strong suit.
The third problem is that they chose the lowest bidder which offered a substandard service. Complaints of difficulty signing up, bad service and poorly-designed recycling bins dogged the program from the beginning. The low price of $2.75 per month also made it so that WSI would have to have a large number of residents sign up before they would make any money on the program. It seems like the Mayor didn’t really take all of the details of how the program would be implemented into consideration before he just chose the cheapest option.
Cross-posted by Bob Wilson of the Bill Foster Watch.