- A person standing in front of a blue door - Communication
Monroe County Commissioners Michelle Coldiron, David Rice, Danny Kolhage and Heather Carruthers discuss the merits of various green issues at the October BOCC meeting in Marathon. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

At the October Board of County Commissioners meeting in Marathon, county commissioners considered “green” issues, voting to approve some while continuing to research others.

Commercial cardboard recycling 

The BOCC voted to finalize solid waste collection service rates for commercial property for fiscal year 2019-20, but not before a speaker from the community brought up the fact that Key Largo businesses – including restaurants and hotels — have no effective way to recycle cardboard. Waste trucks no longer pick up cardboard freestanding from businesses, and most cardboard doesn’t fit in existing recycle bins. The result is that most of it gets thrown away. “Our recycling rates are not very good for such an environmentally-conscious county,” lamented the speaker. 

Cheryl Sullivan, the county director of solid waste and recycling, reassured the audience that cardboard can still be taken to transfer stations for no charge. Commissioner Heather Carruthers, mystified by the complexity of the process of cardboard recycling for Upper Keys businesses, said, “we need to make some adjustments.” She wondered why Key West requires breakdown of cardboard that then is taken up by trucks. “I don’t understand why that isn’t the case countywide,” said Carruthers. 

Sullivan mentioned the need to keep talking with waste management service providers to see what other solutions they could come up with on cardboard as it hadn’t been previously contemplated, and County Attorney Bob Schillinger was tasked with fleshing out what contract changes would be needed to ensure cardboard recycling is possible. 

Residential cardboard recycling is still picked up from homes county-wide.

Public transportation and bicycle stations

Commissioner David Rice described the successful “joint-partnership” among Marathon, Monroe County and Key West, which the commissioners extended for 10 years, through 2030. He said, “To successfully encourage people to take public transportation, it has to be convenient, comfortable and timely.” Moving for approval, Rice hoped that the resolution would allow for buses to run the course roughly once an hour. The commissioner additionally acknowledged the difficulties of that “last two miles” from the bus stop to where people work and offered the shuttle services as a “first step.” 

New FDOT grant money was also discussed, which is slotted to add bicycle and pedestrian facilities to the 62 highest-use bus stops within Key West up to Key Colony Beach. The funds would additionally be used to build shelters, add lights, add and maintain trashcans, provide maps, and even create bicycle fix-it stations with pumps and racks. All these measures are meant to encourage use of the bus-shuttle system and to pave the way for an eventual Keys-wide system.

Countywide straw ban

During commissioners’ comments, Carruthers requested that staff research a county-wide ban. Carruthers said, “Key West did it already, and I’m not sure why we haven’t yet.” She added, “I was just presented with bamboo straws that can be reused, boiled, and go in the dishwasher. Pretty remarkable.” County Attorney Bob Schillinger offered to circulate the Key West ordinance as a starting point for BOCC discussions, likely to occur during the December BOCC meeting. 

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