California Cracking Down On Fake Recycling Logos; Why Aren’t Florida Officials Doing More?

In case you hadn’t heard, most of the recycling logos you see on various kinds of containers and other products are a scam.

This is especially true for plastics, most of which have never really been recyclable because of their chemical complexity.

California is taking this issue head-on by proposing legislation that will ban companies from putting recycling logos on their products unless they can back up that claim that the containers or materials are really recyclable. Unsurprisingly, the plastics/petrochemical industry is pushing back, The New York Times reports.

Plastic waste is an increasingly serious problem in places like Florida with thousands of miles of coastlines, lakeshores and rivers that often are the destination to improperly handled plastic waste. Worse than the litter problem is the fact that this material breaks down into tiny particles that get into the aquatic food chain that eventually ends up in our bodies.

Plastics: It’s What For Dinner doesn’t have an appetizing ring to it, does it?

There has been a lot of lip service about plastic recycling in Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection still lists single-use plastic bottles as among the recyclables in municipal curbside programs even though they’re not. Polk, to its credit, injected some reality into this issue a few years ago by dropping most plastic containers from its approved curbside materials list.

It would be a step forward if FDEP officials could break their ties with the plastics lobby and speak with legislators about an honest recycling program for our state, which means honest recycling labels.

That may help to solve another problem that plagues local government recycling programs, which is the contamination in recycling carts.

Some of the contamination is the result of residents continuing to recycle the way they were told to 20 years ago when the plastics scam had not been exposed.

Some of the contamination is the result of residents simply using their recycling cart to get rid of anything that won’t fit in their garbage cart.

The problem is if there is too much contamination, garbage companies are not going to the expense to sort through the incoming loads to separate the good stuff from the bad stuff, so it all goes to the landfill.

There are solutions local officials, who keep saying they’re going to do something about the problem but so far haven’t delivered, could do to reduce the contamination problem.

First, of course, would be an active education program. That goes way beyond posting a short video on your Facebook page and hoping someone sees it.

However, it shouldn’t stop there because educational efforts often miss a lot of the people they should reach.

Some jurisdictions actually send people out to check on what residents are putting in their recycling carts and leave notices when the carts contain contamination.

Other jurisdictions have simply removed recycling carts from residences that continue to ignore the recycling guidelines.

After all, we don’t accommodate scofflaws in other areas of society. Recycling should be no different.


The Heat Is On; Area Summer Heat Records Pile Up

If you read that this was not the hottest summer on record in our area, you need to read the fine print.

The figures released by the National Weather Service this week should get your attention.

Lakeland had the third hottest August on record and the eighth hottest summer since records were collected in 1915. However, the difference between the current and the record temperature is only about one degree Fahrenheit and the other top records are in the past decade.

The figures at other locations in the area tell a similar story, with the exception of a couple of historical outliers.

Add to that the fact that the temperatures are monitored at locations at the edge of town far from the urban heat islands where most people live may indicate the problem may be even worse than the official figures indicate.

The real indicator may be how much your electric bills, a lot of it related to how much your air conditioners were running to keep you comfortable, increased between last year and this year.

That may a dose of reality to the political rhetoric that says this is all just a hoax.





As Rainy Season Winds Down, Peace River Flows Lag

There has been a lot of discussion about drawing water into a reservoir somewhere around the confluence of Bowlegs Creek and the Peace River in the Fort Meade area in southern Polk County.

The problem with this idea is that it depends on high flows, which so far this year has not provided much water because some years the river flows heavily and sometimes it does not. This year, at least so far, is one of those years where flow is about a quarter of long-term average flow, according to USGS data that goes back more than half a century

Of course, this low flow occurred in 2004 just before three hurricanes raced across Polk County an augmented the flow to close to historic averages.

The question is whether the tradeoff between water planning and emergency planning is a good model.

Check back in October and find out


Behind-Schedule Polk Water Co-op Projects On Swiftmud Agenda

Polk Regional Water Cooperative was supposed to have been farther along with plans to drill two deep aquifer wellfields and figure out if they could get more water from the Peace Creek Drainage Canal and surrounding wetlands to remain qualified for millions of dollars from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

It isn’t and the issue of whether to give the cooperative an extension will come before Swiftmud’s Governing Board on Tuesday.

The staff is recommending approval.

PRWC has been pursuing the projects after an in-depth analysis of central Florida’s water use revealed the main aquifer that had been used traditionally had reached its sustainable limit.

According to the staff report for Tuesday’s meeting discussioin, the delays were the result of reconfiguring the wellfield projects, which diverted resources from the Peace Creek basin efforts.

How to handle future land uses around the Peace Creek have been an issue in recent years as Winter Haven and, more recently, Lake Wales have approved or are considering approval of the development of thousands of acres along several miles of the drainage ditch’s watercourse.

Meanwhile, Swiftmud officials have recently raised concerns about plans by some governments that belong to the cooperative to go their own way to develop alternative water resources. They’ve been told there will be money for joint projects, not go-it-alone efforts.

One particularly troubling proposal that came up but was not pursued by officials in Davenport, one of the cities that wants to drill its own well, was to develop a wellfield on conservation land in the Marion Creek basin east of Davenport that contains extremely rare plants. That site ‘s rare plants had already been heavily impacted by a poorly planned pipeline project and restoration work is under way.



Polk’s Lopsided Development Regs Get Renewed Scrutiny

Sunday’s Ledger reported how a little-known provision tucked into the county’s growth regulations allowed a developer to gain approval of a subdivision near Eagle Lake the County Commission had previously denied.

This is certainly not an isolated incident and unsurprising given the history of the writing and interpretation of growth management regulations in unincorporated Polk County.

The particular provision governs approval of so-called infill development. County records show the provisions were approved in 2002 and 2003.

That date coincides with the early days of the writing of the county’s development regulations, which was greatly influenced by the development industry.

It gets worse.

Shortly after the County Commission finally voted in 2000 to belatedly approve updated development regulations as required by a 1985 state law, they appointed a so-called “Glitch Committee” made up of members of the development community and their consultants.

The committee’s job was to take yet another look at the development regulations to catch any problems for them they didn’t catch the first time around. This infill development provisions seems to date from that period.

The infill regulations are fairly well-hidden, occupying a few pages in a 136-page section on conditional uses, which may not be an obvious place to look. There were allegations that the developer did not know about this provision, either, until county planners suggested the developer use it.

Add to that is the infill development standards are generic enough to give applicants and planners enough latitude to justify administrative approvals.

That seemingly permissive interpretative atmosphere in Bartow is what the ongoing litigation in this and other recent zoning cases is examining.

Stay tuned.




PRWC Told To Stick Together

The Polk County Water Cooperative needs to stick together if they want continued funding and want to have a sustainable water supply project, Southwest Florida Water Management District officials told board members Wednesday.

The presentation is in response to some discussions by member governments to pursue alternative water supply projects on their own rather than joining in the countywide plan to develop wellfields, pipelines and treatment facilities to drill wells hundreds and thousands of feet into the ground to acquire water to treat for future water supply and to dispose of the contaminants from the process.

It was significant that some of the member cities, such as Davenport and Haines City, who have proposed the Lone Ranger approach, were not present.

Swiftmud officials made it clear that anyone who planned to go it alone would not qualify for agency funding.

If they are planning to spend money to seek water from the Lower Floridan Aquifer, for which there are currently no water restrictions on withdrawals, their permit applications may be approved.

Nevertheless, it was also clear that the cost will be large. It would cost an estimated $60 million to develop even a modest amount of water from these alternative sources.

Meanwhile, PRWC board members voted to proceed with their deep well projects.

Stay tuned for the future cost analyses.




Polk Stormwater Projects Vindicate Efforts By Sierra To Pass Tax

Ancient Islands Sierra activists urged the Polk County Commission for decades to enact a stormwater tax to tackle the historic pollution threats to local lakes and rivers.

After some false starts, commissioners finally passed the tax about a decade ago and appointed a technical committee to review potential projects to make sure they money was being spent effectively. This was similar to the committee that reviewed environmental lands purchases.

A report Tuesday from David Carter, the technical committee’s chairman, vindicates the environmental benefits that we advocated for so many years to bring to reality.

The Lake Gwyn project in Wahneta, which treats lake stormwater discharges from sections of the Winter Haven area, has reduced nitrogen pollution by 30 percent and phosphorous discharges by 59 percent.

A nearly completed project near Lake Conine in Winter Haven will eliminate the last direct discharge into the lake via a ditch system built many decades ago when that was standard practice and a common cause of surface water pollution.

A project under way west of Crooked Lake, Polk’s only water body designated an Outstanding Florida Water, will restore wetlands and treat water that historically flowed into the lake via agricultural drainage ditches.

Work is under way on a state-mandated 20-year stormwater needs analysis and training county staff to conduct further work, such as a lake vegetation analysis.

Meanwhile, the majority of the 108 lakes local officials monitor are either improving or retaining their existing water quality.

This wouldn’t have been possible with funding from the stormwater tax.

Also, like the Polk County Environmental Lands Program, when governments have a serious, dependable funding source to address a problem, this allows them to leverage that funding to form partnerships with other agencies to further the program’s goals and stretch the dollars.

This has been a success story that should be celebrated as a victory for the vision of the local environment community.