Eva Delgado cares about the environment, so every Friday she leaves recycled items on the curb of her home in Waterford Lakes for waste management and collects them to a recycling center in Melbourne.
Delgado is not alone. In 2020, about 90% of single-family homes in Orange County participated in recycling, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
But there are some issues.
Many Orange County residents recycle, but if the bin is contaminated with non-recyclable material, everything in the bin, including recyclable material, ends up in landfills to help the planet. valuable efforts may be wasted.
The county’s website outlines which materials are recyclable in its system, including #1-5 labeled plastic containers, metal cans, glass containers, flattened cardboard boxes, and paper. These items should be placed loosely in the recycling container for collection.
According to the website, plastic bags and wraps are unacceptable and cannot be put into the recycling cart as they clog the sorters.
Debbie Sponsler, Orange County Utilities Communications Manager, said she directs questions about recycling to the website. The website also has a recycling game where you can learn more about recycling.
“People can put materials in and see if they’re recyclable,” Sponsler says. “I highly recommend using these tools.”
According to Florida Recycles, “Almost one-third of all materials households send to recycling facilities in Florida actually cannot be recycled, contaminating a large number of items that could otherwise be recycled.”
David Gregory, manager of the Orange County Public Utilities Solid Waste Division, said the trucks that pick up the recycling carts are automated, so drivers can’t spot contaminants before loading.
He said that if a shipment arrived at a transfer center at the Yonge Pine Road landfill and contained 30% pollutants or hazardous waste, the entire shipment could be dumped into the landfill. I was. According to him, most of the recycling is recycled, but every few days we see trucks being rejected and instead headed to landfills.
“You can see engine blocks, auto parts, old hoses and Christmas lights in the recycling cart,” says Gregory. “These may be recyclable, but they are not in our carts or systems.”
Jayla Call, a University of Central Florida sophomore from Apopka, said that while some neighborhoods did recycle, her family only did so for a few years and then quickly stopped. She said her family is tired of recycling waste instead of sorting it into trash bins.
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“We understand that recycling is important,” Cole said. “But I didn’t grow up in a recycling home, so I’m indifferent.”
Delgado, 33, said it was his former employer who properly taught him how to recycle in Orange County, but others likely learned through the county’s public utilities department’s recycling feedback program. said.
According to Gregory, the Recycling Quality Improvement Team inspects residents’ recycling carts and tags them with instructions for review and, if necessary, improvements. Biggest culprit? Plastic bag.
“We go back to the regions we tagged early in the project to see how many messages remain,” says Gregory. “We know it’s an ongoing effort for us to remind people how to recycle correctly.”
The program was piloted in 2018 and launched in December 2019. Gregory says recycling efforts have improved.
“Recycling literacy is confusing and scary for everyone,” Delgado said. “It’s like starting from scratch when people are already in the rhythm of what they think they should be doing.”
This story is part of a partnership between Orlando Sentinel and UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media.