Alachua County is No. 1 in Florida in recycling


After being collected, these recyclables were compacted and stored at Alachua County's Leveda Brown Environmental Park and Transfer Station off Waldo Road.

ALACHUA COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS
Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.

At an apartment complex near the intersection of 13th Street and West University Avenue, a young man was helping a friend carry out her trash. As he began to throw a bag filled with aluminum cans and plastic bottles into the trash bin, she stopped him. "Not there," she said, pointing out the green bin to his left that is meant for recyclables.

Judging by statistics from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection released on Monday, Alachua County has no shortage of people like this young woman. For the second year in a row, Alachua County has been ranked by the Florida DEP as the top recycling county in Florida.

The rankings are a year behind, accounting for 2011. The 2012 statistics will be released in a couple of months, said Sally Palmi, assistant waste management director for Alachua County.

The report takes into account recycling done by citizens, businesses and local governments.

"As a whole, we have a very green, conscientious community," she said. "People care about the resources around them." Alachua County has one of the highest rates of household recycling in the country, she said.

Palmi also credited local businesses for their participation in recycling efforts.

Chris Bird, director of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, was hesitant to take all the credit on behalf of the county for its efforts to push the recycling, but he did praise the county's outreach efforts as one factor.

There is a lot of environmental awareness in the community, he said, adding that "There is a lot of support for county programs" to encourage recycling.

Dwight Adams, who is in charge of a Sierra Club campaign to minimize waste, said he is pleased with the county's performance, but he said there is room for improvement. Florida is one of 39 states without container deposit legislation.

In these states, consumers pay a deposit when they buy bottled or canned drinks, usually 5 cents, and get the money back when they return the containers to an authorized redemption center.

Michigan, the only state with a 10-cent deposit rather than a nickel, has a 95 percent recycling rate for bottles and cans, he said.

The Sierra Club presented a bill to introduce a container deposit in Florida this legislative session, modeled after a similar bill from Texas. State Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, said he was looking into the legislation, but could not submit it this legislative session because he had already filed six bills — the maximum allowed per legislator in the Florida House.

Perry said he would have to do more research on the issue before committing to the bill. The biggest opponents to such a bottle deposit have been grocery store chains and the beverage industry, Adams said.

In 2010, the Florida Legislature passed a bill creating a goal of reaching a 75 percent recycling rate in Florida. The rate is based on the amount of solid waste that is diverted from a waste disposal facility for recycling purposes.

Alachua County is currently at about 50 percent, Palmi said, though the county shouldn't become complacent.

"I think we'll see other counties starting to catch up," she said.

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