Here’s why recyclables in Orange County are going to the dump

Officials demonstrate the right way to recycle

Contamination means most recyclables are being thrown out.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County officials invited News 6 to come tour their recycling center to better educate the public on what they can and can’t recycle after they say 85% of all recyclables in the unincorporated county are actually being sent to the landfill.

“What we are seeing is when people put the wrong materials in the cart, we are not able to accept it and process it,” said David Gregory, Orange County’s Solid Waste Division Manager. “Unfortunately, the wrong materials in the cart can result in the whole load to not be accepted for recycling.”

Gregory said this as a truck dumped out a load that was just picked up from a local neighborhood. A plastic toy Barbie car, pieces of Styrofoam and garbage bags are all visible. Plastic bags are the biggest culprit when it comes to contaminating a load.

[Trash talk: Here’s why your recycling efforts are going to waste]

“Garbage bags tends to be one of our largest offenders and that’s why we ask people not to bag it,” he said.

The load that came in Tuesday morning ended up being rejected entirely. Orange County has a contract with Waste Management that says more than 15% of a load can’t be contaminated or it all gets thrown out. That’s why Orange County has an 85% rejection rate. Last week, officials in Ocoee said they had almost 100% rejection rate and Apopka has a 98% rejection rate.

"It breaks my heart," Gregory said. "It's why Orange County is taking that education effort to try to get people to recycle right."

Gregory said Orange County was recently given $180,000 in grant money to help in educate the public. Part of that money will allow officials to continue the “fleet on the street” campaign, going into neighborhoods inspecting recycling carts and providing feedback to customers on how to recycle right.

“We are going to be looking at carts at the curbside and direct feedback to residents on what should or should not go into the cart,” he said.

Gregory also encourages people to use the “Think 5” strategy, which focuses on the top five recyclable items: plastic bottles and containers, metal cans (not including scrap metal), glass jars and containers, and clean cardboard and paper. Gregory adding there are other materials that are recyclable, but just not accepted in your bin.

[Don’t toss that out: Here are common recyclable items]

“There are other ways to recycle clothing, other ways to recycle plastic bags, but if they put it in the cart that can cause the problem,” Gregory said. “Metal pots and pans are recyclable but they aren’t recyclable in the cart because the big machine that sorts all the material is set up to organize certain material.”

Gregory listed some common items people think are recyclable but aren’t:

  • Pizza boxes
  • Grocery bag
  • Plastic buckets
  • Scrap metal
  • Yard waste
  • Straws
  • Styrofoam egg containers
  • To-go boxes
  • Straws
  • Bags of dog food
  • Fertilizer bags
  • Paint cans, spray paint, any hazardous waste