Many people believe in recycling and Florida’s recycling rate in 2015 was 54 percent, with a projected 75 percent recycling rate in Florida by 2020. Twenty counties are leading the way, with 2015 recycling rates reaching and exceeding the 50 percent interim recycling goal. While these are the state’s statistics, they can be somewhat misleading because Broward and Palm Beach Counties get credit from the state for trash burned in an incinerator to produce electricity.
With strong recycling programs and strong participation from businesses, governmental agencies, organizations, families and individuals, we can reach Florida’s goal. One of the challenges to reach the goal is Florida as a state does not require residents to recycle like other states do. What’s more, recycling numbers include garbage that isn’t actually recycled at all.
Some of the challenges we have in recycling is knowing what should and should not be considered recyclable. Some waste that people recycle ends up as garbage because there’s no market for the materials. For instance, there is virtually no demand for recycled glass in Florida. In the US, colored glass is recyclable, such as wine bottles, beer bottles, and soft drink bottles. If glass is used as decoration, then it is probably not recyclable. Glass has a major benefit over other recyclable materials because it can be recycled over and over without any loss in purity or quality. Research shows that using recycled glass cuts energy costs about 2 to 3 percent for every 10 percent of recycled glass used. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
So, Floridians who want to see Florida develop a demand for recycled glass need to speak up and contact our government officials. Florida is not the only state that fails to recycle glass. In fact, only ten states in the USA currently recycle glass, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont.
In Broward, residents put all of their recyclables into one container, which creates challenges. Up to 30 percent of the garbage that Broward residents put in recycling bins ends up in a landfill or burned in an incinerator.
Palm Beach County collects different recyclables in separate bins: plastic with plastic and cardboard with cardboard. The county says only about 11 percent of the material coming into its recycling centers has to be thrown out or burned.
Here are the key items to recycle in our state:
- Clean and empty plastic bottles and containers
- Clean and empty aluminum cans
- Clean and empty glass bottles and jars
- Dry paper, newspaper, and junk mail
- Clean and empty metal containers
- Clean and empty milk and juice cartons
- Dry flattened cardboard
- Dry paperboard boxes
The word “clean” is important. If you believe in recycling, then you must rinse and clean your items before they are put in the recyclable bin.
Examples of things that should not be recycled include plastic bags, coat hangers, garden hoses, yogurt cups, shampoo bottles, plastic film, foil, and Styrofoam.
Recycle Across America advocates for standardized labels on both home and public recycling bins, spelling out exactly what can be recycled in each community. The labels, in use in Orlando and coming soon to other cities, may be our best hope for pulling recycling out of the dumps.
Each of us and our families can contribute by continuing to recycle as much as possible from our homes, once we know and understand the right way to recycle.