Indian River County’s aggressive crackdown on people who put non-recyclables in the blue recycling carts is starting to generate complaints from people whose recycling carts are left at the curb, uncollected. Here, Antowain Person, county landfill foreman, takes photos of a contaminated recycling bin while conducting a field audit. Those audits are continuing. (Photo: PATRICK DOVE/TCPALM)
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Plastic bags sticking out of your blue recycling cart are like big red flags to Waste Management’s collection crews.
If they see non-recyclables in a cart that’s been put out for collection, they’ll tag it with recycling information. More importantly, they’ll leave the cart at the curb without emptying it.
This isn’t a unilateral move for the county’s recycling- and garbage-service provider.
“The county asked us to get more aggressive,” said Amy Boyson, spokeswoman for Waste Management. The company is working with the county to reduce contaminated batches of recycling materials sent to the processor, she said.
Since summer, the county has noticed an increasing number of customers using their recycling carts as garbage cans. The county’s recycling processor complained dirty diapers, discarded food and trash were contaminating batches of recycled cardboard, paper and plastic.
Sue Flak, Indian River County recycling coordinator, talks about inappropriate items found in county recycling bins.
Since then, county employees have done their own field inspections and launched an education campaign, trying to teach people about what should — and shouldn’t — be put in the recycling carts.
Non-recyclables mixed in with recycling can contaminate entire batches and cost the county money. Plastic bags can be tangled in the recycling center’s machines.
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Unlike county solid-waste officials, who continue to do field inspections looking for violations, Waste Management crews will tag only carts with visible violations, Boyson said.”(The county) is actually looking inside the cart,” she said. “Our guys don’t have time to do that.”
Residents are starting to get the message, said Sue Flak, county recycling education and marketing coordinator. She hears continual complaints from those upset their recycling cart was left at the curb uncollected.
“They realize the county means business,” she said. “It’s not going to stop. We’re not going away.”
Repeat violators are cited to appear before the county Code Enforcement Board. Last month, the board issued a continuing order for one repeat offender, who faces a $100 fine the next time garbage is found in his recycling cart.
The county’s aggressive enforcement seems to be helping, Flak said. While data is unavailable, she said, violations seem to be decreasing.
Residents need to start taking responsibility for what they are putting in the carts, Boyson said. Plastic bags never have been acceptable in the curbside-recycling program, so they should be kept out of the recycling carts, she said.
And people know they should put garbage only in the garbage carts, not t heirrecycling carts, she said.
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