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.



Posted in Group Conservation Issues.