The Impact of South Florida Recycling

Americans generate more than 200 million tons of garbage and debris each year. In 2010, Florida generated more than 32 million tons of municipal solid waste. This waste is a result of tourism, boating, and various densely populated areas. Two decades ago a legislature was passed in Florida with its first recycle goal of 30 percent. Prior to this, garbage was neither segregated nor recycled. All trash was disposed of together. This method of disposal was simply not environmentally sustainable. Although efforts were made to manage waste better in the 1980s it was only in 2008 that the Florida Legislature enacted a bill that set a new recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020.

A handful of statistics about the waste generated in South Florida:

  • On an average, each citizen generates 1.5 tons of waste every year.
  • Close to 75 percent of trash is recyclable, but approximately 30 percent is recycled, on an average.
  • 21.5 million tons is compostable waste, which is equivalent to emitting greenhouse gases of 200 million cars on streets.
  • Construction and demolition debris constitutes 25 percent of municipal solid waste.
  • Organic food is 40 percent of municipal waste, which can quite easily be composted.

The Importance of South Florida Recycling

Florida K-12 schools have more than 3 million students. The state has committed to improved recycling efforts and introduced a recycling initiative called The 4R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle and recover) into school curriculums. The curriculum now includes lessons on “Solid Choices”. Students are also actively involved in recycling at school. Remarkably, if schools successfully adopt the 75 percent program, approximately 6 percent of Florida’s statewide goals will be achieved.

Introduction Of Innovative Programs

Getting South Florida into recycling required the introduction of innovative programs at a school, residential communities, and commercially. Here are some of the most successful programs:

Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT): Communities in Florida have adopted PAYT. It is the same as paying bills towards electricity and water. The less you use the less you pay. It causes people to decrease waste disposal and avoid disposal fees.

RecycleBank: A residential trash program allows people to collect discount coupons from local vendors,  the more they recycle their own trash. RecycleBank is a private organization.

Zero Waste Zone: Zero Waste Zones are growing across South Florida. People are encouraged to use products as future goods and potential income by diverting trash from landfills towards recycling.

Recycling Markets: Setting up units that collect recyclable material and converts them to other useful products. Recycling markets are strongly backed by government support to thrive.

Waste Management

The first step is to distinguish between the type of waste collected.

Construction and Demolition ( C&D ) Debris

Approximately 12 percent of all solid waste is generated by C&D debris being incorrectly disposed. Waste material generated in the construction of commercial and residential buildings is classified under this category.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed and implemented the following to deal with C&D Debris:

  • All C&D debris to be processed at a materials recovery facility before disposal
  • Introduction of entry-level sorting  area at facility to encourage cost-effective recycling instead of disposal

Organic Waste

40 percent of all solid waste is organic. Such waste is easily composted instead of filling up landfills.  The department encourages flow of such materials to organic recycling centres, instead of landfills.

Waste To Energy

This is the process of deriving electrical energy from incinerating waste. Florida introduced more than 12 WTE facilities, enough to power in one county for one year.

Commercial Recycling

In Florida, nearly 67 percent of waste is being generated from the commercial sector. Approximately 30 percent is being recycled. The new 75 percent goal will be unattainable without the participation of the commercial sector.

Challenges Faced So Far

Although the legislature was passed, there seems to be a few challenges that have persisted:

  • Lack of public awareness, education, and training courses. Read and share our post on The Importance of Recycling in South Florida
  • Lack of emphasis on organic recycling versus construction recycling.
  • Lack of emphasis on commercial versus family unit recycling programs.
  • Setting up but improper utilization of programs such as Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) and RecycleBank.

How to Get Involved

Proper leadership from State Government is the best way forward. Florida has set the ball rolling for many cities across the US and the countries across the world, with its 75% recycling by 2020 program. By establishing these respected programs, the government has checks and balances in place to monitor the milestones achieved. The state must continue to work with schools, businesses, public groups and  citizens. Constant education programs and awareness initiatives on a regular basis will help achieve the 2020 target.