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Alachua County prepares for Zero Waste Week: what can you recycle?

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 7:35 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - We’ve all been there before: You’re unsure if what you’re throwing away can be recycled. The answer is not as clear as you may think. Not every product is accepted at certain facilities.

In Alachua County, some products are considered contaminated or unusable-- like egg cartons, pizza boxes, and black plastic. For recycling facilities, if you take that extra step to head to your county’s website and see which items are recyclable, it saves them time and money. For example, alachuacountyrecycles.com tells you which products can be recycled and which ones to toss.

“People don’t want to throw something away ... they want to be green and help the environment ... and so they put it in the recycling bin. What happens is, we cannot manage that material-- it costs money and resources ... so instead of helping, it’s actually harming,” said Gus Olmos, Interim Solid Waste and Recovery Director.

The facility has seen an increase in recyclables, with the pandemic creating a boost in online shopping and thus cardboard boxes and plastic. So far, Alachua County residents have done well.

“On the average here in the county, we generate 5 pounds per day .... of that, 25% to 27% gets recycled. If you take away commercial and just look at homeowners-- the contamination rate is 5% ... so our customers in Alachua County are doing a great job,” said Olmos.

As far as some people’s skepticism or doubts of the existence or future of recycling, facility Manager Charles Hobson says recycling will always be a booming market.

“I have been doing this for over 30 years ... we are still recycling ... we recycle more every day. Things change sometimes on what the facility may take-- but we take the basic same items for 20+ years, that doesn’t change on a day to day basis.”

Moving forward, if you’re unsure about a certain product, Hobson says: “If you have something in home and you’re in doubt, throw it out.”

Starting Sunday 1/24, Alachua County and the City of Gainesville are taking part in Zero Waste Week, an initiative to educate local members about ways they can become more green. Leaders are seeking input on the initiative-- welcoming comment from community members in their webinar on Thursday, January 21. Those wanting to participate in the webinar must register online (click HERE).

“If we really want to make an impact in reducing waste, we need to go beyond recycling-- looking at the way we are in life, making choices, buying products that don’t need to be replaced soon or buying ones that can be recycled into he first place,” Said Olmos.

For more information on the county’s initiative, click HERE, or read the county’s message below:

Alachua County and the City of Gainesville are seeking input on their Joint Zero Waste Strategic Plan. The County and City are hosting a webinar on January 21, 2021, at noon to provide an overview of the Joint Zero Waste Strategic Plan planning process and proposed strategies.

The presentation will be followed by time for stakeholder questions and comments. Those wanting to participate in the webinar must register online. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Participants can review the plan and give feedback online.

Alachua County Interim Solid Waste Director Gus Olmos said, “Public input and participation is a critical step in finalizing the plan, and helps to identify the strategies that are most important to the community.”

For more information, contact Gus Olmos at 352-548-1282 or gus@alachuacounty.us.

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