Public works department leads city’s environmental efforts
Because of its location in environmentally sensitive South Florida, Hollywood has long promoted the 3 Rs of environmentalism – reduce, reuse and recycle. The public works department has taken the lead in the city’s efforts.
“Our staff is committed to the conservation and preservation of our natural resources,” Public Works Department Director Gregory Turek says. To that end, the department has installed native plants on the beach to cultivate natural dunes. The department also has encouraged the use of recycled plastic lumber in building and renovations, implemented a city-wide curbside recycling program and sponsored an Arbor Day event in which trees are given to residents.
Hollywood’s 5 miles of beach are cared for by beach maintenance crews who are up before sunrise to prepare for the thousands of tourists that use them daily. In 1996, the division purchased a sanitizer that would not only clean the sand but redeposit it. This process keeps the beach clean without removing valuable sand. By the end of the year, crews had collected 500,000 pounds of litter and 440 cubic yards of shoreline debris.
To prevent beach erosion, dunes have been planted with native shrubs such as sea oats, beach sunflower and buttonwood. “The dunes are vital to the survival of the shoreline,” Streets and Beach Maintenance Superintendent Jose Vazquez says. “Dune plantings aid in the prevention of erosion because they capture the sand and prevent it from washing away.”
The department’s attention to conservation also can be seen in its purchasing patterns. For example, it consistently buys benches, picnic tables and trash receptacles made of recycled plastic lumber. It has also used the material to build lifeguard stands, tree grates, bike racks and pedestrian footbridges.
Hollywood’s residents have long been a part of the recycling loop, but last year, the city changed its recycling program from a drop-off-based system to a two-sort curbside one. “More than 30,000 families were given blue recycling bins, refrigerator magnets and instructions for participation,” Environmental Services Manager Rick Wolf says. “All program information was imprinted right on the bin as a permanent reminder.”
“Residents now enjoy a convenient once-a-week pickup of newspapers, glass, plastics and metal cans,” he adds. “In the first six months of the program, tonnage almost doubled from 2,042 tons to 3,897 tons.”
Because the curbside program has been so successful, the city has mandated multi-family and commercial recycling. “We wanted to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to recycle where they live, work and play,” says Lorie Mertens, education coordinator for the public works department.
The division recycles more than 13,000 tons collected from homeowners annually. The resulting mulch is offered free to residents and used throughout the city in medians, parks and around public facilities.
Residents also are able to recycle old appliances, metals, furniture, magazines, phone books and wood at a city-run facility. In 1997, the city recycled more than 3 million pounds of hard junk. Additionally, a donation center operates on the site to accept usable items such as clothing, appliances and furniture.
To continue in its effort to promote conservation of the environment, Hollywood has combined recycling with city beautification. On Arbor Day, where residents can bring in 30 aluminum cans in exchange for a bald cypress or oak seedling. The city gave out more than 600 native trees during the event.
During last year’s Arbor Day, the department’s right-of-way maintenance division added a plant show and landscaping workshops, which included landscape design and tree care, into the day’s activities. Local growers and nurseries offered a variety of native and exotic species.