When it comes to recycling in Jacksonville, what some of us were taught years ago no longer applies. Why does that matter?
"One dirty item can contaminate an entire truckload, so make sure recyclables are empty, clean and dry," says the website of recycling contractor Republic Services.
Once upon a time, you may remember being encouraged to recycle plastic bags. Or, maybe you thought it was okay to throw Styrofoam or paper cups into the recycling bin.
Not anymore. Recyclers are working to educate all of us on what’s acceptable and what’s not after changes to the list of acceptable recylcables.
Bill Brinkley with Republic Services said historically much of our recyclables have made their way to China. The U.S. – including the First Coast – have been sending massive amounts of plastic waste to China instead of recycling it here.
“About 40 percent of the material was going outside of the United States, over to China. China was loose on their standards,” said Brinkley.
But on January 1, China clamped down on what it accepts as it deals with its own pollution and economic issues.
So just what should go in the recycling bin now?
The only items in the bin should be:
- Paper – including magazines
- Metal cans
- Plastic containers
- Glass bottles or jugs.
And, again, they must be empty, clean and dry.
Keep in mind:
- Once cardboard or paper comes into contact with food or liquid, it can no longer be recycled.
- Never allow more than one teaspoon of liquid to remain in a recyclable.
- If recyclable materials are smaller than a credit card, they will likely end up in the landfill or jam up the sorting equipment during the recycling process.
In fact, Brinkley said he wouldn’t be surprised to see glass bottles removed from the list as some point.
Other things to keep in mind:
Don't Bag or Contain
- Never bag or bundle your recyclables. Items should be placed in the container individually.
- Plastic bags can get caught in the machinery causing delays and damage to equipment.
- Bundled recyclables can’t be sorted at the facility, so all of it ends up in a landfill.
No Connected or Mixed Materials
- When two or more materials are connected, they cannot be recycled, even if they’re all recyclable.
- If all of the mixed materials are recyclable, like a plastic package with a paper insert, separate the items and put them in your container individually.
- If only part of the mixed material is recyclable, like a window envelope, separate the plastic portion from the paper and recycle the paper.
See the Republic Services site for more detailed tips on what is and what isn't recyclable.
Plastic bags can be returned to most supermarkets for recycling.
As for things like batteries, electrics and clothes - they should be taken to a third-party recycling or hazardous waste center.
The Republic Services North Florida Recycling Center is located in the 7000 block of Imeson Road on the city’s Northside.
In 2015 the recycling rate in the Sunshine state was 54 percent, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. That number is expected to rise to 75 percent by 2020.