Indian River County Director of Utilities, Vincent Burke, Writes About New Recycling and Garbage Collection Services

Waste Carts in Truck

People in Truck

New garbage carts being delivered in Indian River County


Some people in Indian River County (IRC) are perplexed about the new recycling and garbage collection services.

“I’m 94 years old, live alone and can’t possibly fill the new garbage cart?”

To help people better understand changes in the new recycling and garbage collections services, we asked IRC Utilities Director Vincent Burke if he would be kind enough to write-up a summary of the changes so we could publish it.

Here is his summary:

October 1, 2015

Good afternoon Tom,

As you know, back in April of this year, the Board of County Commissioners decided to award a new recycling and garbage collection service franchise to Waste Management (WM). Of the four qualified responsible and responsive bids, WM provided the most cost savings to the residents and businesses of Indian River County.

This was a decision that was not made lightly and was made after several meetings, presentations to all the municipalities, updates to the Board and with public input.

Prior to October 1, 2015 there were two authorized haulers. WM operated in the Northern half of the County, while Republic Services operated in the South.

The haulers provided a 2-1-1 level of service: 2x/week garbage, 1x/week recycle, and 1x/week yard waste. The new format is now a 1-1-1 level of service: one garbage, one recycle and one yard waste. Part of the reasoning for this switch was based on research that has shown the effectiveness of once a week garbage pickup while also increasing recycling participation. In fact, about 4.7M people in Florida already have 1x/week pick up. I have included a sheet listing those jurisdictions. Recently Orange County switched to 1x/week pick up. (Please see PDF link below.)

But why the switch?

It is important to know that the State of Florida is requiring all counties to achieve a 75% recycling rate by the year 2020. In fact, we were put on notice to provide a plan to the DEP by July 1 of this year indicating what IRC intended to do to reach the 75%.

Because we had not reached our interim goal of 50% last year (IRC’s recycling rate is below 40%), we had to summarize the plan and submit to the DEP. There are several major steps that IRC has committed to take in reaching 75%.

We know, having done a Waste Composition Study (WCS) in 2014 that 46% of the material going into the landfill could be recycled. We are trying to capture as much recycling material at the home or business so that it does not wind up in the landfill and so that we can meet the State requirements.

Major changes:

Singles Stream: As you may have seen, over 65,000 blue 64-gallon carts are being delivered to residents of IRC. The old system was based on an 18-gallon dual bin separation of plastic and paper products. Studies have shown that by switching to SS, tonnages have and will increase.

This is important as we separate out these materials to keep them from going to the landfill. The recycled material is transferred to a sorting facility where people, and machines separate the recyclables according to type so that they can be repurposed. I have toured three such facilities where belts, conveyors, optical scanners and air blast systems work tireless to separate out the material.

Going to SS will lead to an increase in our recycling tonnages and having the new blue bins will make it easy for folks to roll them to the curb. Plus, having lids (with instructions on top as to what can/cannot go in) will help keep the material in and rain out during inclement weather. Also, by increasing the recycling efforts, the need for more frequent garbage pickups decreases.

Hauler: When the County went out to bid for the unincorporated part of the County, a myriad of options were considered. Should customers provide bins? Should the hauler or the county provide carts? Should it be 2x/week or 1x/week garbage pickup? The North area or the South area could be bid separately or the entire area as one piece. In many cases, when a company bid on the entire county, there were greater savings. Such was the case with WM’s bid.

The cost for voluntary 1-1-1 residential collection is only $9.68/month. Although the service drops from 2-1-1 to 1-1-1 there is a 35% reduction in the cost/month. And if folks sign up with WM (772-569-1776) now, they will receive a 10% credit on their first quarter bill (Oct-Nov-Dec). Normal rates equates to about a $2.42/week cost for the curbside pick-up. Further cost savings could have been realized if the county went to mandatory garbage pick-up like many other areas in Florida or even parts of IRC now.

Mandatory garbage pick-up already exists if you live in the City of Vero Beach, the Town of Orchid or the Town of Indian River Shores. The hypothetical residential rate for universal/mandatory pick up would have been $7.73/month or 48% lower than the rates prior, but the Commissioners opted not to make that decision.

Carts: Time was of the essence so additional decisions had to be made regarding garbage cart size. Due to the complexities of customizing IRC specific carts, tight timeframes and custom logos and stringent cart specifications by IRC, an initial one-size-fits all approach was used. We also did not know how going from 2x/week to 1x/week garbage would affect residents. A better safe than sorry approach was used.

We recognize that the carts may not work for all due to a variety of factors (demographics, geography, # of residents per household, etc…) so people have an opportunity to exchange their carts after 90 days, free of charge. For example if you want a 35-gallon cart because the 96-gallon is too large, then call WM at 569-1776. They will place you on an exchange list and come Jan 1, 2016, your cart will be switched out.

We ask folks to try it out for 90 days especially because the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays often produce more material. Also, keep in mind that with the new carts, the trucks have automatic side arms that will pick up the cart. All material must go into the cart (hence the large size) and material should not be placed beside the cart.

We realize some County residents may have medical issues and are unable to place the garbage or recycling cart at the curb. In these rare instances, a backdoor collection service is offered as long as there is valid and legal documentation from the residents health care practitioner supplied to the Hauler.

The new system will reduce the number of trucks on the road, decrease fuel consumption and also potential liabilities for solid waste personnel who no longer have to manually lift and dump the material.

Cart Update as of 10/2/15: While some residents have received their new garbage and/or recycling carts, a few in the southern area have not. WM is bringing in extra crews and will be working nonstop today through the weekend to deliver these carts. So if you have yet to see or receive your new cart, please know that it is on the way.

We recognize that this new system will have a few glitches since such a big transition is occurring at once. Each location is unique but due to the above mentioned reasons, everyone is initially getting a 96-gallon cart.

If you would like a different size, please call WM, get on the exchange list and the carts will be switched out beginning in January 2016. This one time free cart swap can be used for a garbage cart switch and a recycle cart switch if needed. In the meantime, Please know that WM staff and County staff are working diligently to address issues as they arise.

Overall, we are also asking people to re-examine how they dispose of the material perhaps separating out more of the recyclables while minimizing their waste. This effort will also help with costs on the back end.

Designing, building & operating a landfill can cost $4-6M. Plus, the County must expend additional monies monitoring a closed landfill for 30 years as per DEP requirements. All residents and business pay these costs. If we can reach the 75% number, we can work together to defer these large capital expenditures while extending the useful life of the landfill.


Vincent Burke

Vincent Burke

Vincent Burke

For more information, please go here:

A comprehensive FAQ here:

Find my pick up day:

County Solid Waste Office: 772-770-5112

Florida Jurisdictions with 1x Week Collection

2 thoughts on “Indian River County Director of Utilities, Vincent Burke, Writes About New Recycling and Garbage Collection Services

  1. This has to be about the worst handoff of waste service that has ever happened. I called Waste Management EVERY DAY the first week they took over service in South Vero. They managed to not pickup anything roadside Monday, collect recycle materials Wed, collect garbage Thursday andfinally Friday night, I gave up on yard waste. All I get every day are apologies and empty promises. The rep at WM told me the driver notated that my garbage can was not curbside Monday morning. I said well if you mean the new one you have yet to deliver than he is right. But my trash was out Sunday night. I was told I would have my can by the 1st, then the 8th, then by the 11th……today is the 12th and guess what? No garbage can and no other choice for waste pickup. How do you deliver to only part of a subdivision? I guess if you use the hopscotch method WM uses. This might as well be rocket science to them. Their service was shoddy when I had them in Atlanta and looks like nothing has changed. 5 days of calling, apologies, and empty promises and when I finally asked about a credit and what they would do about the situation, I got a $3 credit. WOW.

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