Simplifying recycling

Judging by our inboxes, there has been some confusion about the relaunch of recycling, specifically regarding what to put in the can.

There are basically two lists of approved items floating around. One was originally produced by Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) back when their recycling plant in Perdido first opened. The second list is far shorter, and it was publicized by Santa Rosa County government within in the last month or so.

Both have been published in the pages of this newspaper recently. So, what gives? Is newspaper and glass still recyclable? Why do these lists not match if ECUA’s plant is processing our recycling?

Let’s clarify.

As of the first week in February, ECUA’s Perdido plant did begin processing recycling collected in Santa Rosa County per a contract with the county’s government. ECUA’s facility is a massive, specialized set of machinery that relies a lot on recyclables dumped being clean. It is one-of-a-kind for our region.

In Navarre, WastePro picks up the recycling in each person’s can and brings it to the Central Landfill. The county staff check the loads to ensure there are not any obvious signs of contamination. If it’s clean, a third-party company takes the load to ECUA’s Perdido facility for sorting.

If the load is contaminated, even from one person’s can, the entire load will be rejected and sent to the dump.

Keeping recycling clean and free of nonrecyclable material is essential to being able to preserve the recycling program. Because here’s the source of all the problems: global demand for recyclable material is down. Malaysia and China (two of the bigger buyers) have rejected shipments in recent months.

And recyclables don’t have a shelf life. So, if no one is itching to buy those freshly sorted recyclables to go make new things, they end up in the landfill anyway.

That means the environment was NOT helped and ECUA did NOT make their money back on the program.

So back to the two lists. This is an issue of CAN versus SHOULD.

The original list—we will call it the CAN list—contained all the types of materials that ECUA’s recycling plant is capable of sorting out. This is a comprehensive list of what we CAN recycle.

The second list produced by Santa Rosa County is more of a SHOULD list. This very specific, limited list of items are in demand from the market. That means they are mostly not ending up back in the dump.

Mixed paper and newspaper is one example of a pointless recyclable. Based on conversations from the county commissioners on the topic, this paper isn’t being bought. And if its not bought, it is either dumped in the landfill or burned. Either way, not good.

The SHOULD List also contained materials that are pretty hard to screw up sorting. Some of the other items on that CAN List can be questionable, and with ECUA trying to scrape every dime it can out of the recycling program to keep the lights on, questionable loads are going to the garbage. They can’t risk tainting an entire set of recyclables or damaging the plant.

So, if you plan to recycle: follow the SHOULD List. Clean cardboard, clean and dry plastic bottles, steel and aluminum cans. That’s it.

And tell your neighbors, friends, coworkers, dog walker and anybody who will listen to do the same. Post the SHOULD List to Facebook, NextDoor, SnapChat, Insta, everywhere! Please.

Oh, and one more thing. If you are one of the numb skulls knowingly putting nonrecyclable stuff in the recycling can, CUT IT OUT! That kind of behavior is not only totally immoral (and gross!), it is going to ruin it for the rest of us.

The county seriously will end recycling if contamination drives up cost, because it is costly to us taxpayers to reject a load.

As our mamas always said “if you can’t recycle nicely then don’t put anything in the recycling can at all”… or something like that.     

As seen in the Feb. 6 issue of Navarre Press.
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