Ocala, FL Struggles to Decrease Contamination in Recycled Waste

The city of Ocala’s efforts to decrease the amount of contamination in recycled waste collected from residential customers might need more time to see success.

At current contamination rates, the city will have to pay Waste Pro of Florida an additional $63,800 annually to process contaminated recycling waste. City staff will ask next month for a way to remove recycling customers from the program if they keep contaminating the stream.

Facing rising costs to collect and manage recycled materials earlier this year, the city council approved a plan to place yellow warning tags on recycling bins when they contained materials that collection vendors don’t recycle, such as food.

Under the program, the workers picking up the recycled waste take a quick look inside the bin. If they see contaminated material they check it on a sheet and place the form in a yellow envelope attached to the bin.

The good news is that 91 percent of the recipients of yellow tags are non-repeaters, said Darren Park, assistant director of operations for Ocala’s public works.

Waste collectors have been attaching the yellow tags since June 5. The data collected thus far ran through Aug. 24. In that study period, 858 yellow tags were issued.

The level of contamination when bin contents were mixed was 23 percent before the tag program. By Aug. 24, it fell ¼ of a percentage point.

“It’s encouraging in respect to the yellow tags that are not repeats, but it hasn’t translated to a large drop (in contamination),” Parks said.

Parks thinks the yellow tagging has not been in effect long enough and feels the majority of customers do not intentionally contaminate the recycle waste.

Park will continue to report contamination levels to the Ocala City Council every 90 days.

Next month, he will ask the city council next month for an ordinance that would allow the public works department to take away the recycling bins of households that repeatedly add contaminated waste to the recycling stream. There are 17,000 residential recycling customers. They pay for regular waste pick up and recycling.

Recycling is not mandatory. In some cases, households are using the recycling bins as a second garbage container, Park said.

Councilwoman Mary Sue Rich during last week’s city council meeting said that by taking away the bins, some customers are being released from any obligation to participate and are not being punished for opting out. Other council members said taking away the bins could create confrontation between the city and households.

To read the full story, visit http://www.ocala.com/news/20171008/ocala-struggles-to-decrease-contamination-in-recycled-waste.