Santa Rosa County residents are inching closer to recycling again after Emerald Coast Utilities Authority ended its contract with the county in April due to high contamination rates and the low market value of recyclables.
Ron Hixson, the county’s environmental manager, said the county has signed a new contract with ECUA and now is in the process of approving a contract with a recyclables hauler, which will hopefully go in front of the Board of County Commissioners in December.
If approved, recyclables from residents will start being recycled again as soon as Milton-based WPR Inc. receives a new equipment order for the work.
The recycling industry has struggled since last year when China began rejecting most loads of American recyclables for being too contaminated. The move dropped market values for recyclables.
The county will likely subsidize recycling costs by about $350,000 to keep the program going. That’s even after an increase from $36 to $40 per ton in the county’s tipping fee at the beginning of the year.
►► Santa Rosa County could suspend all recycling for the foreseeable future
►► Santa Rosa County could take $320,000 hit to continue recycling program
►► Recycling may be back on the table in Santa Rosa County, but its future is still uncertain
ECUA recycling center workers, April Derry, left, and Jerry Foster, right, look for non-recyclable materials on the sorting lines at the Beulah Landfill sorting facility. Much of the non-recyclable items include organic material, plastic bags, and medical waste. (Photo: Tony Gibersonfirstname.lastname@example.org)
“We get nothing back from recycling. There’s no share revenue or rebate or anything. It’s strictly an expense to us,” Hixson said. “Even though we went up an additional $4 a ton for recycling coming in, we’re still having to add $350,000 to do recycling. … It’s very expensive.”
The county’s agreement includes a number of pickups for residents, including trash, recycling and yard waste and bulk waste, which are often appliances. Residents pay one fee a quarter for all those services, roughly $60 per quarter depending on where the resident lives, Hixson said.
After ECUA ended its agreement with the county in April, recyclables were sent to the landfill as the county worked on a new contract. Jack Bonney, a county resident who has spoken out about recycling concerns, said he doesn’t understand why recycling is included in his quarterly waste disposal bill if the recyclables are going to the landfill instead.
Bonney said he considered himself an avid recycler, particularly with cans and mail.
“I had more recycling stuff in my recycling (bin) than I did garbage in my garbage can,” Bonney said. “I felt like we were helping the environment.”
Hixson said it’s important that residents pay close attention to what exactly they’re allowed to recycle because if a load is too contaminated, it will be rejected completely and disposed of at a landfill, costing the county more money. Things like hoses and window blinds are often put into recycling even though they’re contaminants.
“People do what they call ‘wish recycling,’ ” Hixson said. “It all has to go back to the residents. If they want to keep recycling, they need to be careful what they put in that box or that can.”
Madison Arnold can be reached at email@example.com and 850-435-8522.
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