When residents put their recyclables in curbside bins, contamination wasn’t a problem.
Now that carts have replaced the bins, the contamination rate has shot up from 12 percent to 32 percent. Polk officials said they were surprised, though this has been a problem in other Florida counties, so they should not have been.
It seems that some people didn’t get the message and use their recycling cart as a second garbage cart.
The contamination is made up of two different types of materials.
One type involves materials such as glass bottles and single-use plastic water bottles, which were accepted under the previous recycling rules, which changed in 2016.
The other involves materials such as plastic bags and polystyrene containers, which have never been accepted.
These materials reduce the quality of the acceptable recyclables, they can gum up the processing equipment and they require more labor to pull them from the loads.
Polk has taken a financial hit as a result.
The County Commission recently approved a change in its contract with Waste Management to increase the processing fee for recycling loads from $50 to $90 a ton.
This fee increase will continue until the contamination percentage drops significantly. Anything below 20 percent is supposedly acceptable, though the lower the better.
To accomplish this, Polk has hired a marketing firm to come up with a more user-friendly educational campaign to persuade residents to mend their recycling ways.
The campaign is supposed to roll out later this winter.
In the meantime, make sure you’re not part of the problem. Talk to your neighbors if you get a chance and help them to comply.
Recycling is not that difficult as long as the rules are clear.
That has been a problem in the past.