Monroe County Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Coldiron joined Cheryl Sullivan, Monroe County Director of Solid Waste, and Greg Sullivan, Director of Waste Management in the Florida Keys, to tour the South Florida recycling center located in Pembroke Pines. In addition to Monroe County and Waste Management officials, representatives from Marathon Garbage Service, Keys Sanitary, and the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce also attended.
“I was very excited to see municipalities, leaders, and businesses come together to see and understand the challenges that surround recycling,” said Cheryl Sullivan. “It starts with changing current habits and behaviors regarding how to correctly recycle, and also how to reduce, reuse, and repurpose."
The County contracts with four private franchise operators to provide recycling collection in the Keys, which is then shipped to the recycling center to be sorted. Since the center is single stream, those recycling in the County do not need to separate papers and plastics. All recycling can be combined in the same 64-gallon provided container. Recycling from Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Collier counties are processed and sorted at the site, then put into bails and shipped to those who buy recycling. Each bail contains about 2,000 pounds of a sorted item.
“It was an eye-opening experience touring the recycling center and seeing firsthand how much waste product we can reuse and how important it is to educate everyone in what can and can’t be recycled,” said Coldiron.
In 2019, unincorporated Monroe County spent $554,300 on recycling haul out for 7,090 tons. Residentially, homeowners in unincorporated Monroe County are charged $402 a year for garbage and recycling collection.
Greg Sullivan said recycling could be confusing territory, especially with plastics. The recycling center accepts 1-5 but offered an easy way to remember what plastic can be recycled. Milk jugs, water bottles, and bath products all fall within the “if the neck is smaller than the body, it can be recycled.” Red Solo cups do not. And, always remember to remove the lid, which can also be recycled.
“According to a municipal solid waste report, only 1 out of 3 plastic water bottles make it to a recycling center,” said Sullivan.
As always, tin, aluminum, cartons, cardboard, and newspaper are always accepted.
Reminders of things that CANNOT be recycled include, plastic grocery bags (can be brought back to grocery store), food waste, Styrofoam, furniture (even plastic outdoor furniture), toys, plastic planter containers (can be returned to garden store), garden hoses, hangers, electric wires, sporting goods, clothing, pots and pans, yard waste, hazardous materials and chemicals, and propane tanks, especially the small Coleman camping tanks. Remembering the things that cannot be recycled is extremely important because if more than 10 percent of the recycling is contaminated, it goes to the landfill instead!
For more information on recycling in unincorporated Monroe County, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/recycling. Videos of the recycling center tour can be found at www.facebook.com/monroecountybocc.