August 28, 2014 Recycling News No Comments

Changes to Charlotte County’s recycling program made the process easier for residents, causing participation levels to spike. We go behind the scenes.

BY EVAN WILLIAMS
Six days a week, about 20 hours a day, crowded streams of metal, paper, plastic and glass flow along conveyor belts at the recycling plant.
The bold yellow headline of a celebrity rumor rag shouts at you even from its spot squeezed amid a long, thick line of recyclables rolling in a single stream up a conveyor belt — the equivalent of three stories up into a huge warehouse near the Port of Tampa. The stream includes most household items that can be recycled, and — the bane of a modern recycling plant — quite a few things that can’t. Inside is a system of conveyor belts, about a mile of them, and heavy machinery that Rube Goldberg might have designed.Here, the crowded stream of metal, paper, plastic and glass from Charlotte County — as well as Pinellas, Sumter, Polk, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties, and the city of Tampa — are separated, sorted, cleaned of contaminates and pressed into one-ton-plus bales. Workers are stationed at “quality control” checkpoints throughout the warehouse, which is run by Waste Management, a solid waste and recycling behemoth that holds a contract with Charlotte and numerous other government and private entities in the United States. Its fleet of trucks picks up recyclables once a week from residents in unincorporated Charlotte, each day in different sections of the county, about 84,000 homes in all.Besides reducing carbon emissions and preserving natural resources for the future, recycling reduces the material constantly filling Charlotte’s landfill, which is projected to last through 2034. But that projection doesn’t take into account a recent spike in the number of residents who participate in the recycling program, which officials said was due to the current method of so-called “single-stream” recycling, which began here in 2010, along with larger new bins it rolled out last November.Workers at the Tampa MRF sort out contaminants like plastic bags, hoses or large metal pieces. EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY Workers at the Tampa MRF sort out contaminants like plastic bags, hoses or large metal pieces. EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLYEverything that gets recycled helps extend the landfill’s life as the county’s population grows. A University of Floridastudy shows it growing from its current population of 163,000 to more than 190,000 by 2030.What is not recycled is buried in the landfill, and no one relishes the prospect of building a new one, least of all potential nearby residents. It’s also expensive, at around $500,000 to $700,000 an acre to build, said Richard Allen, the county’s solid waste operations manager.
Written by ovpadmin