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Here's how recycling may change in Clay County

David Bauerlein
Florida Times-Union
Jill Chestnut jams cardboard into an overstuffed bin last month at the Jacksonville recycling dropoff site at Blue Cypress Regional Park in Arlington.

Clay County is evaluating how to return curbside recycling services after failing to make progress on hiring more waste haulers.

The possibilities include:

  • Permanent drop-off sites with no curbside pickup.
  • Recycling and yard waste alternating every other week instead of weekly.
  • Automated side-loading trucks with new waste containers. This option would serve 70% of the customers.

The county conducts all its solid waste pickup services — garbage, yard waste and recycling — through Waste Management. After the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent labor shortage, Clay County was forced to suspend all curbside recycling pickup last August after missed collections of garbage and yard waste piled up.
Waste haulers were collecting over 500 tons of recycling during the months of June and July, before the suspension. Since the move to drop-off sites, the county has collected under 200 tons of recycling each month from September to February.

The Board of County Commissioners voted for the suspension with the idea that temporary drop-off centers for recycling would be used while Waste Management hired more drivers. They were short by 10 waste haulers at the time of the suspension.

While Waste Management has been up-to-date on all weekly garbage and yard waste collections since curbside recycling ended, it has regressed in driver retention.

When recycling was dropped, the county had 30 drivers and needed 40. As of Tuesday, the county has 27 drivers and needs 42 to fully staff all residential routes.

Clay County Environmental Services is studying a handful of solutions through two independent consulting firms and will present its findings to the board in mid-May in the form of a solid waste master plan.

Jacksonville, which underwent similar difficulties regarding driver shortages, suspended curbside recycling in October to deal with missed collections that were ballooning into the thousands each week. Since the reduction of missed collections and new contracts with its three private waste haulers, the city announced that curbside recycling pickup would return April 4.