Lakelanders are doing a fantastic job of separating true recyclables from trash, according to the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling Manager Gene Ginn. He said the rate of contamination in the approximate 7,000 tons of recycled material the city collects from residents and commercial customers every year is about 18 percent, which he called “excellent.”
The national average contamination rate is 25 percent, according to Mary Boyer with Republic Services, the company that processes Lakeland’s recycled material. Boyer said Republic Services works with all of the municipalities in Polk County. Although she declined to release specific contamination rates for each city, Boyer said Lakeland had the county’s lowest contamination rate and that area rates including Plant City ranged from 18 percent to as high as 72 percent.
Recyclable materials should not be put in plastic bags. Plastic bags get tangled around machinery, requiring workers to shut the equipment down and cut them free. Ginn said glass containers are recyclable, along with water bottle caps, paper and cardboard, metal containers, and plastic containers such as water bottles. The plastic is typically sold to carpet manufacturers and textile mills. A mailer the Solid Waste department sends out uses the phrase “when in doubt, throw it out.” The mailer also advises residents to call the city at 863-834-8773 to pick up piles of brush, branches, used appliances, and furniture.