Sarasota County staff plan switch to new recycling method

Sarasiota County to swicth recycling systems

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - It’s a mundane task many of us do automatically, but when you take out your trash, do you ever consider where it goes?

The City of Sarasota recently switched to a new way of collecting recyclables and has already seen a 58% increase in the amount of materials residents are recycling.

Now, the County said it’s planning to follow suit.

People living in the County are still using two bins to separate their recyclables. But those who live in City limits now use a single bin.

City staff said they have statistics to prove that this new method is already encouraging residents to recycle more. Last April, the City collected 264 tons, but this April that number skyrocketed to 454 tons.

“It’s just mind blowing to see the amount of people that are really doing the right thing,” said Todd Kucharski, general manager for the City of Sarasota Public Works department.

It’s been a full month since the City switched to a “single stream” recycling system, eliminating that need for residents to separate recyclables into two bins for paper and plastic.

“We wanted to just set the bar a little bit higher, so that the community can see that we’re taking care of you in a serious way, not just picking up your garbage,” Kucharski said.

It’s saving them money too. The City said the new carts were about $800,000, but they’ll be saving $200,000 every year using this new collection method.

“It goes beyond the cost of that," said Kucharski. "It’s really about the whole earthly, environmental part of it.”

If you live in the County, there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing this change soon too.

“It seems like the processing industry for recycling has moved away from dual stream processing because it takes two different sorting lines and extra people to do all the sorting,” said Larry Alexander, solid waste division manager for Sarasota County.

The County’s dual stream processing contract ends in September.

“There is nobody who’s really doing it that way anymore, so if we’re going to go single stream processing, we’re should go to single stream collection like the City did," said Alexander. "Use a cart to raise participation rates within the community and I guess we’ll be following suit.”

The solid waste division manager said changes in China will likely be the reason their staff switch to a single stream system.

“The majority of the material that was being collected in the U.S. for recycling was shipped to China and in January of 2018, China decided that what they were getting was not the quality of material that they needed," explained Alexander. "So they cut back dramatically on the amount of shipments they would accept.”

Meaning there’s no more worldwide markets for recycling, so supply and demand has made the cost of domestic processing go up.

“Under a previous contract the County had for processing, we had a $51 per ton rate to process our materials," said Alexander. "I’m seeing now, most single stream plants are looking at the $125 to $150 a ton processing rate.”

So it costs to process, but those materials do still have a market value of about $50 per ton.

Up until last year, the County actually made money on recycling, by selling it to China. But now that China has stopped taking our paper, plastic and glass, the County actually pays more than $2 million a year to process recyclable material.

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