The future of recycling

Bradenton Is Ending Its Curbside Recycling Pickup Service

Will other local governments follow suit?

By Chloé Cuyler April 27, 2022

It’s official: The City of Bradenton is ending its curbside recycling pickup service. Starting in early June, rather than put their recycling out with their trash, residents will have to take their clean, recycled goods to one of 10 recycling centers.

These “convenience centers,” as they are being called, are made up of large, locked bins with slots for recyclables to be added. They will be positioned throughout Bradenton and will be accessible 24/7. According to the city, if these centers prove to be effective, more will be added.

The suspension of curbside recycling pickup stems from two challenges the city has been facing. The first is understaffing. Bradenton just doesn’t have enough waste collectors to meet the city’s demands. Back in January, it was reported that the department was short 14 employees and, at the time, had five out sick due to Covid-19.

The second reason for the change is the contamination of recycled goods. When put in with recycling, items such as plastic bags and unwashed food containers and jars can contaminate the whole batch, forcing everything to be dumped in the landfill and costing the city an additional $40 per ton of recycled goods. 

It is reported that around 80 percent of America’s waste is recyclable, but ends up in the landfill anyway. This is right on track with what has been occurring in Bradenton—an estimated 70 percent of the city’s recyclable material is dumped in the landfill due to contamination.

During the recycling process, plastic bags—such as those commonly used by grocery stores—can become tangled in machinery and cause damage to equipment, and should never be mixed with standard recyclables. Instead, they should be disposed of with regular garbage or dropped off at grocery stores that offer special recylcing bins just for plastic bags.

City Administrator Rob Perry says educating residents about proper recycling can be difficult. The ctiy is currently posting information on its website, as well as creating informative recycling bin tags and including information in utility bills. Perry says that the city has also reached out to several of Bradenton’s larger homeowner associations with tips on recycling.

What will become of the blue curbside bins meant for recycling? They will become yard waste bins in June, and will be tagged with “Yard Waste Only” stickers.

Bradenton isn't the only local government exploring changes to its recylcing program. Sarasota County is conducting a survey of residents about solid waste services through Friday, May 6. Residents are being asked to complete a market assessment to determine which solid waste collection services are being used most often. The survey contains questions like, “On average, how often does your household place the recycling cart at the curb?” and, “How is yard waste collected in your community?”

Sarasota County's current contract for its recycling program expires in September 2024. According to a Sarasota County media relations officer, the information gathered during the survey "will be used to develop the scope for a forthcoming franchise agreement procurement process."

The City of Sarasota, meanwhile, has no plans to change its solid waste collection program.

"All collections for city customers are handled in-house by crews from the Solid Waste Division of our Public Works Department," says City of Sarasota communications specialist Jason Bartolone. "We don’t anticipate any changes at this time."

The key to assuring the success of recycling programs is knowing what is recyclable and what is not. Items approved for recycling include steel and aluminum cans, food and drink cartons, glass and plastic bottles and jars, cardboard, paper, newspapers and magazines. Any food or drink containers must be empty, rinsed and dried. Any caps or tops should be placed back onto their original containers. Non-recyclable goods include paper tissues and plates, polystyrene foam, electronics and fabric.

For more tips on recycling, see Sarasota County’s Solid Waste How-To Guide. To learn more about Bradenton’s new recycling dropoff program, visit the city's website.

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