Residents ignore recycling guidelines, taint truckloads of materials, officials say

Local residents have been using the “single stream” recycling service since it was introduced in unincorporated Osceola County and the cities of St. Cloud and Kissimmee in recent years.
But their conservation efforts have become either overzealous or just careless, according to officials.
Entire truckloads of otherwise recyclable waste have been put in landfills because people aren’t following the rules and contaminating the stream, said officials from Kissimmee and Waste Management, the national company that oversees local trash and recycling operations.
One of the two biggest problems is food residue left in recyclable containers – that little bit of sauce in the spaghetti jar or yogurt still clinging to the inside of a single-serving cup.
“It’s as simple as washing something out right after you finish eating, so it doesn’t dry up and then require a lot of effort and water to clean later,” said Kissimmee Sanitation Supervisor Jody Kirkendall.
The other major problem is unacceptable items getting into the recycling stream, said Amy Boyson, community affairs managers for Waste Management.
Plastic bags are the biggest problem,” Boyson said.
The ubiquitous plastic bags get wound up in the processing machines and require shutting them down to clean.
Plastic bags are recyclable, just not in the curbside programs in the county and cities, she said.
That’s also the case for other materials that can be recycled but that are not accepted at the Waste Management processing facilities.
“A lot of people want to recycle everything,” she said. “They don’t know that it can taint the load and cause it all to go into the landfill. They think everything will just get sorted at the recycling center.”
But that isn’t the way it works, she said.
Waste Management this week began putting green tags on tainted recycling containers as a warning to residents. After one green tag, the next bad load will not be picked up, Boyson said.
“We’re going to be doing spot checking with different trucks so we can get a better look,” she said.
Kissimmee began charging residents $17.18 for putting regular garbage in recycling bins.
Sanitation workers pick up the containers using automated robotic arms on their trucks. But they get a look at the pick up from a camera in the bed of the truck.
“It’s not a perfect science but no one’s going to be charged if they accidently put a banana peel in their recycling bin,” said Kissimmee spokeswoman Arin Thrower.
Rather, she said, the city implemented the fines to discourage residents who regularly use the recycling bins for trash.
Officials said they hope to curb the problem before it gets out of hand and starts costing taxpayers more.
“It’s not a cost we can just cover,” Boyson said. “Basically people just need to look at the list on the bins and recycle only what it says you can recycle.”


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