Polk Recycling Policies Under Attack For Good Reasons

Well, the word has finally reached the County Commission that there are problems with the new, improved curbside recycling system that begins Monday, The Ledger reports.

People who either didn’t receive cards in March, misplaced them or weren’t even living here then have learned they won’t get recycling carts until sometime in January.

That was a policy decision dictated by Ana Wood, Polk’s director of waste and recycling.

Although she deserves a lot of credit for turning the operation around from days when staff was too cozy with Republic Services, her decisions on the recycling issue appear to be tin-eared and guided more by administrative convenience than anything else.

First she got rid of the dropoff center near her office, complaining that people were dumping non-recycable materials there and it was inconvenient for her staff to clean up the mess. Missing from the discussion is that the dropoff center was a public convenience, especially for properly disposing of recyclables such are large cardboard boxes that didn’t fit easily into recycling bins and won’t fit easily into the new carts, either. There’s no doubt that people dump other stuff at dropoff centers. They always have. The question, it seems, is whether it’s better to have it dumped near the landfill than along some roadside somewhere.

Second, she reduced the variety of plastic materials to be recycled to some milk jugs without ever clearly explaining why. Everything else in the local plastic waste stream goes to the landfill. Her justification is that China is cracking down on plastic loads, but all of the articles she cited discussed companies and countries that were lacing their plastic bales with radioactive waste, medical waste or chunks of concrete, not water bottles. She further argues that there is little real plastic recycling domestically and that main products for which recycled plastic is used are park benches and carpet, both of which eventually end up in the landfill so why bother.

Finally, she has been adamant about more fully informing the public about all of this. Other Florida counties post information guiding customers on what is and is not acceptable to recycle and why. She refuses to do so and reportedly has rebuffed attempts by the county’s communications staff to provide more customer-friendly messaging.

One more thing, Wood is absolutely right about glass. It has no market value and reduces the market value of everything else in the load.



Highlands Hammock, Van Fleet Trail Still Closed

Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring and the Gen. James A. Van Fleet Green Swamp Trail remain closed to the public, according to the latest information from state parks officials.

Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve, Colt Creek Park, Lake Kissimmee State Park and Paynes Creek Historic State Park are open.

The status of Circle B Bar Reserve was scheduled to be discussed Friday at the County Commission work session, but there’s still no word on a reopening date.

However, the Florida Native Plant Society is scheduling a meeting at the center at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 to air a film on the history of the Southeast’s longleaf pine forests.

Fewer Than Third of Households Recycling

We now have a better handle on the recycling habits of residents in unincorporated Polk County.

County officials announced that about 43,000 recycling carts are being delivered in response to the 140,000 cards mailed in March asking residents whether they wanted a cart for curbside recycling.

That move made sense since the carts are more expensive than the bins and there was no sense in wasting money delivering an unwanted cart to anyone. It also reduced the chance that residents would use their recycling cart as a garbage cart. This has been a problem in other counties.

That’s a rate of less than a third, which offers an opportunity for Polk officials—if they choose to do so—to target areas of the county to increase the recycling rate. Polk’s recycling rate is one of the worst in the state, at least based on totals reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Ana Wood, Polk’s director of waste and recycling, responds that the figures local officials turn in are not audited. That means they can claim anything they want and no one checks. That goes for Polk County, too.

One unknown factor will be how the recycling rate will be affected by the new rules that were not in place when the cards went out last spring.

Although it had been no secret that glass would no longer be accepted, the limits on plastic flew in under the radar. As I understand it, only a couple of kinds of plastic containers—some milk and juice jugs—will be accepted.

Water bottles, fruit and vegetable containers, butter containers, plastic mouthwash or baby powder containers, yogurt containers and a whole bunch of other plastic stuff that many of us have recycled in the past will no longer be accepted.

Wood also said if cameras in the recycling trucks detect chronic flouting of the recycling guidelines, the hauler will repossess your cart.

Stay tuned, this could be interesting.

Circle B Reopening Undetermined

This is recent view of one of trails at Circle B

In case anyone was having Circle B Bar Reserve withdrawal symptoms, you may have to live with it for awhile.

The latest word is that the trails are impassable because of high water caused by rainfall from Hurricane Irma.

No date for reopening has been set.

County staffers are scheduled to meet with the County Commission soon to brief commissioners on the popular natural resource venue’s situation and a potential schedule for reopening the site to the public.

One of the aggravating factors is the decision by the Southwest Florida Water Management District to raise the level of Lake Hancock, which has affected water levels in surrounding wetlands.

A portion of the Lost Bridge Trail at Circle B has been under water for the past year.

In the meantime, other local environmental lands sites and state parks are open to the public.

It might be a good opportunity to use the hiatus to visit and explore other conservation lands around Polk County.

Some Local State Parks Are Open

State parks are still recovering from the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma and are gradually reopening.

The latest information from the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation says that Lake Kissimmee State Park, Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek and Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, Lake June-in-Winter State Park , Lake Griffin State Park and Lake Louisa State Park are open.

Still closed are Colt Creek State Park, Highlands Hammock State Park and Gen. James Van Fleet Green Swamp Trail and Paynes Creek Historic State Park.

Jack Creek Pact With FWC On Swiftmud Agenda

Next Tuesday the Southwest Florida Water Management District is scheduled to consider a formal agreement with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the management of Jack Creek Preserve in central Highlands County south of Sebring.

The meeting begins at 3 p.m. at the agency’s Tampa office on U.S. 301. It will be followed by the tentative budget hearing at 5:01 p.m.

The meetings are open to the public and can also be viewed online.

The 1,268-acre tract is home for 20 listed species and is open to the public for hiking and nature study. It is part of a system, of preserves along the Lake Wales Ridge that have been purchased in recent decades to protect rare endemic species.

According to the backup information on Swiftmud’s website, the agreement is intended to clarify each agency’s role in managing the property.


Polk Legislators Cancel Wednesday Meeting; Many Constituents Left In The Dark

It took a little checking around, but it seems the Polk legislative delegation has canceled Wednesday’s public meeting to hear from the public about the issues they feel legislators should address in the 2018 session.

If this is the first you’ve heard about it don’t be surprised.

The email blast that went out last Thursday announcing the cancellation was addressed primarily to local government and business interests.

Groups, such as Ancient Islands Sierra, which had formally sent an email asking to be on the agenda, were not included in the notice.

That makes one wonder just who the Polk delegation feels they are actually representing.

According to the email, the meeting will be rescheduled, but the date has not been determined as, apparently, has the method of informing the general public so it can participate in the process.

Part of the problem was that the venue the delegation had chosen, a meeting room at the Polk County Extension Office rather than the Polk County Commission chambers, had been affected by power and Internet outages in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

That site had seemed convenient before the storm because part of the legislators’ gathering had included an appreciation luncheon with the Polk County Farm Bureau, which is located nearby.