Approximately 70% of Bradenton’s recycling ends up in landfill

Rinsing your cans and breaking down your boxes is the first step when it comes to reusing your trash, but chances are those recyclables end up in landfill.

According to the latest data from Bradenton’s solid waste division, approximately 70% of recycling loads that are dropped off are not processed at the recycling center. Instead, they are taken to landfill due to improper recycling, officials say.

“We know that’s a big percentage. More often than not, it gets landfilled,” Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown said. “It’s the trend all over the United States.”

When trucks drop off loads of recycling at the collection center, the center is inspected to ensure that most of what is in the pile is actually recyclable. If more than 20% of the load is non-recyclable, such as plastic bags or Styrofoam, the entire load goes to landfill.

A Florida Trend Magazine report from June 2021 identified at least five other cities in Florida who have encountered similar problems. These cities have decided to completely eliminate their recycling programs, citing the higher cost associated with contaminated loads.

Generally, recycling costs Bradenton about $70 per ton, but a contaminated load costs the city $110 per ton.

“It doesn’t make sense if we pay more and pay extra to get our recycling to landfill,” said Councilwoman Jayne Kocher, who advocated for a public awareness campaign on how to recycle properly.

“We should focus on educating residents so they know better,” she added. “I received a lot of calls and people are not always informed of what they can and cannot put in the boxes. Everyone wants to recycle and we can do more to educate them on how to do it properly.

At a public meeting on Wednesday, Bradenton City Council will consider voting on a new plan that would end curbside recycling in favor of yard waste collection. If approved, the city’s blue recycling bins will become containers for leaves, branches and other yard waste.

“The Public Works Department has done a great job of researching solutions and options for us,” Brown said. “In a perfect world, this isn’t something we would want to do, but we need options to improve the collection of our garbage, recycling and yard waste.

The new proposal would mean that residents interested in recycling will have to start transporting their recyclables to drop-off sites that will be “strategically” placed throughout the city. If council decides to move forward with this plan, city leaders will begin rolling it out over the next few months.

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