Antowain Person, landfill foreman for the Indian River County Solid Waste Disposal District, searches a recycling cart on 43rd Court. The cart was tagged for containing plastic bags, which cannot be recycled. (Photo: COLLEEN WIXON/TCPALM)
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Engine motors are not recyclable. Neither are dirty diapers, plastic bags, animal feces and dead cats.
Yet these items have been showing up in residential recycling bins.
It’s becoming such a problem that county solid-waste officials are cracking down on those who put non-recyclable materials in their blue recycling carts.
More than 400 recycling carts have been tagged already this month, alerting the resident of the violation, said Himanshu Mehta, managing director for the Indian River County Solid Waste Disposal District.
In addition, Code Enforcement has sent hundreds of warning letters to repeat violators.
County solid-waste officials are checking recycling carts on pickup days throughout the county, targeting neighborhoods and areas such as Colonial Heights, Fellsmere, Gifford, Oslo Park, Stevens Park, Wabasso and Whispering Palms, said Antowain Person, landfill foreman for the district.
“We’re basically driving up and down streets looking for (violations),” said Mehta. “We’re trying to get the word out. This is not acceptable.”
First offenders find a tag on their recycling bins and educational material about what is allowed in the recycling cart. Waste Management, the county’s collection contractor, will not pick up a tagged bin.
A second offense gets a letter from Code Enforcement. A third strike could merit a Code Enforcement citation, possibly resulting in up to a $500 fine and removal of the recycling bin.
In some cases, it’s a matter of educating people on what is recyclable and what is garbage. In other cases, violators are using the blue recycling carts as their free garbage service or as an extra garbage cart, Mehta said.
In 2015, Indian River changed to single-stream recycling, giving each residence a recycling cart for plastics, clean cardboard and paper.
The system has helped improve the county’s recycling rate, Mehta said. Recycling has increased from about 12,000 tons of recycling to about 20,0000 tons, he said. The county’s recycling rate was estimated at 66 percent for 2018, a slight increase from the 64 percent rate the year before. Florida’s statewide recycling rate goal is to be at 75 percent by 2020.
“We’ve made a dramatic improvement,” he said.
Putting non-recyclables in the recycling bin contaminates the system, he said.
“It then hurts the whole recycling program. They’re hurting people trying to do the right thing,” he said. “They’re basically rendering all of it unusable.”
More: One year later, Waste Management complaints down, Indian River recycling
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