OCOEE, Fla. – Ocoee City officials are working to educate the public on proper recycling, saying that “almost 100%” of all recyclables in the city are going to the landfill after being rejected entirely from the county’s recycling center.
“We can’t even get it to a recycling center because there is too much trash,” said Steve Krug, Ocoee’s Public Works director. “We have a lot of contamination, which gets our loads rejected, so we ended up taking it to landfill.”
Krug said it’s not only a problem in Ocoee, but in cities and counties all over the state and nation. Markets overseas, including China, have changed the market and are not buying recyclables as much.
[Don’t toss that out: Here are common recyclable items]
“The market has totally changed. It used to be we could recycle a lot of things,” Krug said. “The Asian market was taking most of the recyclables, they realized as things were progressing they became contaminated and they said, ‘No we aren’t taking it any more.’”
Krug said most homeowners don’t know about the high expectations for plastics, papers, metals and other items they are recycling.
"All it takes is one neighbor to be a bad apple in a bunch of apples and they ruin the whole bunch," Krug said. "We can not collect a clean enough load to take it to the recycling center and it disappoints us because it's basically becoming a third trash day and that's not the intent of the system."
It disappoints responsible recyclers in Ocoee as well, such as resident Janine Figueroa.
“That stinks,” Figueroa said. " It’s almost like our efforts are null because we are over here trying to recycle and do better for the planet but it’s not being taken into consideration."
Earlier this year, Ocoee’s City Commission did approve a measure to contract out its recycling services to Waste Collection, an outside vendor that Krug said will be able to sort through the recycling beginning in January 2020.
“Waste Connection, which is our vendor, is going to be able to take the recyclables they have to a transfer station, where they will take the materials down to South Florida to actually utilize them,” Krug said.
In the meantime and ahead of the holiday shopping season, city officials are relying on public education, letting residents know plastic bags and pizza boxes are main culprits in getting your recycling and maybe even your entire neighborhood’s recycling rejected.
“Plastic bags is our biggest culprit,” Krug said. “Keep recycling. Keep it clean and simple.”