by erin thursby
EU had the chance to speak with Chris Pearson, Solid Waste Division Chief, about Jacksonville’s recycling program. We asked about the lack of apartment dwelling recycling, about why the satellite recycling bins were 86’ed and about what happens to your recyclables.
On the local blogosphere and in the news this year questions have been raised about cutting the recycling program. Because of a down economy, recyclables aren’t as in-demand as they were a few years ago.
But if you’re putting out recyclables at curbside and they can be recycled, they will be, according to Pearson. The city is not in the business of recycling, instead they sell the recyclables to companies that process them or resell the material to be recycled. “They’ll just stockpile it until the market rebounds…There’s no incentive for them to dump it because they pay us for it.” He also says that the city has no plans to ever drop the recycling program.
Jacksonville has 110,000 apartment or condo dwellers, according to 2000 census figures. Most don’t have the option for recycling. That’s because the city isn’t responsible for pick ups from multi-family dwellings.
“We’re currently not picking up from anything more than four dwelling units per parcel under the ordinance code…those have to subscribe to a commercial garbage service and if they want to recycle, they have to do the same thing through a commercial recycling service.”
Most cities don’t handle trash pick up from condos and apartments, so Jacksonville isn’t unusual. While cities such as Seattle have mandated that every apartment complex face fines if they don’t recycle, most cities haven’t taken that step (it tends to drive up the cost of renting). And as there are no longer satellite drop offs for recyclables here in Jacksonville that leaves most apartment dwellers unable to recycle.
So what’s a renter to do? First, you can make recycling a priority when renting. Ask about recycling when you’re looking to rent. If enough people ask, it will make local companies sit up and take notice. Secondly, if you already live in an apartment, you can organize an apartment recycling program. Gather all the info you can on the costs and benefits to recycling. Know that you will end up paying for it. Get as many residents on board as you can. Point out that going green can be marketing gold for a renter’s complex.
Pearson suggests that if an apartment renter wants to recycle they can “talk to a property manager. Because although recycling does not pay for itself, there is a slight cost benefit to doing it.”
You can also go to the trouble of saving your recyclables and dropping them off at one of Jacksonville’s recycling companies such as Smurfit-Stone Recycling (1580 W Beaver St, 356-7789).
Once upon a time, the city did have some recycling drop-off points, but they discontinued the program because of a public that had trouble putting the right stuff in the right bins. “We had satellite drop-off and the problem we had and a lot of other cities have had is contamination,” says Pearson. People would drop all sorts of things in the bins that weren’t recyclable, from old clothing to regular trash. Asked if the city would ever go back to this method, Pearson replied “I don’t see us going back to unattended drop-offs.”
Businesses produce tons of recyclable material, most of which falls into the paper category. The city is not responsible for the pick up or recycling of most of these businesses. Nonetheless, many of the largest cardboard waste producers tend to have commercial bins set up for recycling.
Some Jacksonville residents who live in apartments save their cardboard and dump it in commercial bins (such as those you might find behind a supermarket) so that they can recycle. Although the legality of this is somewhat fuzzy, at least they’re trying.
Curbside, the city recycles cardboard and paper items, but not all of it meets their standards. Anytime it looks rainy, homeowners with a blue bin are advised to hold their paper items so they it don’t get wet.
Those who have a have a blue bin might notice that not all of the items are picked up. Pearson indicates that they pick through the items at the curb and if some of them aren’t in the program (certain types of plastics or fiber board cardboard) then they’ll get left in the bin.
Pearson says that glass is one of the recyclables that they have more of than anything and the demand for it isn’t as high. Glass jars and bottles are actually one of the few items you can recycle yourself by finding a reuse for them at home.
There are a myriad ways for repurposing glass jars and wine bottles at home. Use them for storage of utensils, as small vases or even as bookends (fill them with colored sand or shells and place felt or rubber on the bottom to keep them from slipping.) You can also keep them throughout the year and fill them with the dry ingredients for a sauce or cookies and give them as Christmas gifts.
On the other end of the spectrum is aluminum, which is one of most saleable items in your bin. Recycling aluminum has always been the most cost effective out of the bunch.
Plastics are the last thing you’d want to end up in a landfill, but it’s a tricky thing to recycle because there are so many different types of plastic. Look for the required recycling logos to be sure you’re putting in plastic that can be recycled.
The city recycles more than just what you put in the blue bin. Ever wonder what happens to all those tons of yard waste you put curbside after a hard day’s mowing, tree trimming or leaf raking?
“We ran a separate yard waste facility from 1990 until about 2006 but we never really were able to market any of the products.”
While the end product was suitable for home gardeners, it wasn’t right for retail because they didn’t have the technology to remove 100% of the plastic in the yard waste. Consequently the city ended up with a huge amount of yard mulch they couldn’t sell.
Today your yard waste helps lower the cost of the maintenance at a local landfill. It’s used as a sort of infill where soil would be bought to cover the waste in the landfill.
The big lesson for everyone that can recycle and wants to make Jacksonville a greener place is that you should always make sure everything is well-sorted. The satellite bins were cut from the program because of user error. Extra sorting for the city means extra cost, and if something gets missed in the sorting process, it can contaminate an entire batch. By making things easy for the city and the recycling companies that buy our recyclables, these programs are more likely to continue and grow.
If you live in a house here in Duval, you probably have city pickup and are eligible for recycling pick up. While the blue bins were on back order because the demand was so high last year, right now the wait for a blue City of Jacksonville recycling bin is about a week. Your friendly neighborhood waste disposal dude will drop your bin curbside. It should come with a handy guide as to what you can recycle, but you can also access it online in PDF format along with simple rules on what to recycle and how to sort it at coj.net/Departments/Public+Works/Solid+Waste/Curbside+Recycling.htm Call (904) 630-CITY (2489) to get your blue bin.
recycling rules according to coj.net
Single-family residents can recycle all of these items curbside in their blue bin:
· Plastic food, beverage, detergent bottles and jugs with narrow necks and screw- on tops that are labeled with a 1 or 2 (please place tops/lids in garbage; no buttertubs or similar items)
· Glass bottles and jars (green, brown, and clear; please place tops/lids in garbage)
· Metal & aluminum cans
· Newspapers & inserts (on rainy days, please hold until next collection day)
· Magazines, catalogs & telephone books
· Brown paper bags (can also be used to hold excess recyclables)
· Corrugated cardboard (flattened and cut in pieces 2′ by 3′ or smaller)
No plastic bags, milk cartons, or juice boxes
No motor oil, pool chemical, pesticide or fertilizer bottles
No shredded paper
*Note: For all items, labels do not need to be removed.