Collier County will consider burning some of its trash in Lee County’s incinerator and possibly sending its recycling to Lee’s new single-stream recycling center.
A unanimous approval by Lee County commissioners Tuesday morning set in motion talks that could lead to an interlocal agreement.
Both governments would have to approve the pacts before any change is implemented.
“(Collier officials) came up to see what possibilities were but we didn’t get into any real discussions,” said Lindsey Sampson, Lee County’s solid waste division director. “We’ll see if there’s anything we can do. They did seem interested.”
That level of interest, however, wasn’t coming from Collier County commissioners, who weren’t aware of the talks, said Collier County Commissioner Tom Henning.
Henning asked for more information about the options at a meeting of the Board of Collier County Commissioners also held Tuesday morning.
It’s just been discussions, not formal negotiations, said Dan Rodriguez, Collier’s solid waste management director. Mattresses, carpets and furniture, which must get buried, are the types of materials Rodgriguez said should be considered for incineration in Lee County.
Cost, volume and other details about how some of Collier County’s trash could be diverted to Lee County hadn’t yet been discussed, he said.
Lee County is no stranger to taking in other people’s trash.
It has contracted with Hendry County for decades and recently agreed to a five-year contract with Naples to accept its recycling.
Discussion to incinerate Collier’s trash are not new either. In 2000, Collier proposed helping Lee finance two additional burners for its incinerator so it could burn Collier’s trash. Lee commissioners were lukewarm about the idea because Collier leaders declined to entertain the idea of a regional incinerator in the early 1990s.
The 16-year-old incinerator processes about 600,000 tons a year and is operating at about 80 percent of its capacity.
Collier County sends more than 200,000 tons to its landfill annually, so the contract would likely be short-term and deal with only certain materials.
Collier has expressed interest in sending bulky items, which may include construction debris.
The incinerator was expanded in 2007 and there are no talks in place to expand it in the future, Sampson said.
Rodriguez said Collier is looking for any opportunities to divert garbage from its 300-acre landfill off Collier Boulevard, near Interstate 75.
Collier County commissioners also approved expanding their landfill’s maximum height from 108 feet up to 200 feet. The actual height of trash is to be 178 feet, Rodriguez said, and the remaining 22 feet could be used for equipment to handle that debris.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will also have to approve the change in height, which is to expand the lifespan of the dump from 2039 currently to 2058. At that time, officials anticipate it will reach maximum capacity, Rodriguez said.
Collier County commissioners declined to consider an alternative to purchase an adjacent 300 acres offered by the siblings who own it, Marian Gerace and Wallace Lewis. The property was offered for sale by Lewis at an approximate price tag to exceed $20 million.
Collier County officials said they already have 80 acres available that the county owns on-site and that permitting the property, much of which is wetlands, made it cost prohibitive to purchase.
“As part of our solid waste strategy, the board has asked to look at all of the opportunities that exist,” Rodriguez said. And that includes looking at savings in transporting its materials.
Waste Management, the county’s current partner, trucks the recycling materials to its facility on the east coast.
Collier has expressed interested in seeing if Lee County could receive its recyclables.
Jack Meeker, an Estero resident, asked if Lee County could see some additional revenue from the proposed deal.
Sampson did not provide estimated revenues as talks have yet to formally begin, but he said Lee wouldn’t pursue a deal that didn’t benefit the solid waste department financially.
Lee Commissioner Ray Judah thanked Sampson for bringing the proposal forward.
“Years ago we had talked about a regional approach dealing with solid waste,” Judah said, adding that the contract with Naples and the talks with Collier are vital to such a regional approach.
Staff writer Kelly Farrell contributed to this story.