Green carts have popped up across Hilton Head Island as officials prepare to roll out a new townwide recycling program after a two-year effort that saw lengthy debates, revisions and delays.
Town Council voted in November to grant a five-year franchise to Republic Services Inc. to provide residential waste and recycling collection, beginning Friday.
Republic has been signing up new customers and delivering 35-gallon carts. All acceptable recycling materials can be put into the same cart; no separation is required.
"As an island, we didn't recycle collectively. This will make it much easier and cheaper," said Art Smith, Republic Services municipal marketing manager.
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Several residents and condominium regime managers criticized the proposal, saying it would lead to cost increases and harm local haulers. Others were worried about poor service and objected to not being able to choose a different hauler, saying the agreement resembled a monopoly.
Town officials have said residents' participation in voluntary recycling has been poor. Contracting with one hauler, they said, would lower costs for most residents, improve efficiency and air quality, reduce wear on roads, and increase recycling rates.
The quarterly fee to collect trash and recyclables ranges from $52.50 to $60 for single-family houses, and $35 to $42 per unit for condo complexes and apartments.
Republic picks up about 10 tons of recyclable material from homes on the island each week. The company expects that to grow to 60 tons, if all of the island's 14,000 single-family households participate, Smith said. There are about 5,600 multi-family units the company hopes to serve.
About 6,000 customers have signed up so far, slightly below a town goal of 7,000, said Alice Derian, town contracts and services administrator.
Households with contracts for waste- or recycling-collection services have until their existing contracts expire or until Sept. 30, 2012, whichever comes first, to sign up for the program. That has caused a delay in meeting targeted participation rates, Smith said.
"It will take some time to get people on board, but we're confident those numbers will pick up, and we'll continue to run ads and do direct mailings to make people aware and promote the program," Smith said. "Our hope is within 18 months we'll get all 19,000 single- and multi-family homes on board."
Republic offers once-a-week or twice-a-week garbage collection. Recycling collection will be once a week, starting Friday.
Residents can use their own waste receptacle or one can be provided at an additional charge of $3 per quarter.
Republic scurried to accommodate about 2,000 households at the end of December when Waste Pro announced it would stop providing residential solid-waste and recycling collection. The transition has been smooth, so far, said Peter Kristian, general manager for the Hilton Head Plantation Property Owner's Association.
"The test will be, obviously, the service they provide," Kristian said. " ... The fact that I'm not hearing things, that's good news for the community and bodes well for how Republic will handle the transition."
Residents can opt out of the service but will have to haul garbage and recyclables to a county-operated convenience center.
The plan excludes commercial properties and residential complexes where trash is placed in dumpsters. Town officials said service for those communities will be addressed later.