There was a time when it took quite a bit of effort to recycle in Polk County, if you could do it all.
You had to bag or bundle whatever you wanted to recycle and transport it to a recycling center somewhere.
Today curbside recycling is available in most parts of the county. It provided an environmental-friendly way to dispose of paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, aluminum and steel.
This will continue in many parts of Polk County, but starting next month residential garbage customers in unincorporated Polk County, which is where the majority lives, will have a lot less to recycle.
All glass and most plastic will end up in the landfill even if you put it in your recycling container, a decision county officials say is dictated by changes in recycling market prices. Exactly which plastic will not be recycled is a little unclear, but Polk solid waste officials have refused to provide clear information on their webpage to make it easier for the public to sort things out. Other counties such as neighboring Hillsborough County have done a better job.
City recycling programs will continue for now to recycle this material and so will surrounding counties that have recycling programs.
Polk has a reason not to bother to collect unprofitable materials.
The county budget in a small way depends on the landfill’s turning a profit. That’s because the landfill fund is type of piggy bank for the County Commission. It takes a dividend of a few million dollars a year that can be used for various projects.
The change raises some interesting questions.
Polk’s recycling rate has never been stellar and there has never been a sustained campaign to persuade residents to increase their participation in recycling.
Recent policy decisions don’t advance that goal.
First came the decision to remove the recycling dropoff containers at the county landfill. The dropoff centers are convenient sites to get rid of large cardboard boxes that don’t fit into recycling bins and allows you to avoid advertising recent purchases of pricey merchandise. The stated reason for getting rid of the center was that people were dumping stuff other than recyclables—this was undoubtedly true– and it was inconvenient for county staffers to clean up the mess.
Then came the decision on distribution of new recycling carts to replace the bins that had been used for several years. Polk County sent cards to residents earlier this year asking them to respond if they wanted a cart for the new service that begins Oct. 2. The problem was that if you didn’t receive a card or misplaced your card and suddenly realized you needed to order a recycling cart, the official county policy was that you’re out of luck. You will have to wait until Jan. 1 for no other reason than some county official decided that was the way it ought to be. Residents without carts in the cartless interval have been advised to ask neighbors if they can put their recyclables in their carts.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Polk’s recycling rate fares in the new recycling regime.
The state’s recycling calculation is based on weight and without heavy materials such as glass in the mix, it could change even though glass has little market value.
Also, it will be interesting to see whether Polk residents back off from participating in any significant numbers once they learn less of their household waste will be recycled.