Operation Recycle Mount Dora
About two months ago I reached out to our Sanitation provider, Waste Management, to find out what more Mount Dora could do to become a more eco-friendly City via recycling. Today was step one towards that goal.
I was invited to tour Waste Management's Tampa Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) today. I was given the VIP tour of the facility to see exactly how the things we place in our recycle bins actually end up getting recycled.
It was fascinating to say the least. I was walked through the entire process from when the truck filled with our recyclables hops onto the scale at the MRF, to when the very last aluminum can "jumps" into the final diverter.
As it turns out, most of us recycle a lot of material that should NOT in fact go into recycle bins. Some of it because it is not safe for the machines and causes costly backups and down time. Some materials we think should be recycled actually has no value in being recycled.
The easiest way to know if you should be recycling an item is if it's: Clean and Dry-paper, plastic (bottles and jugs), metal cans or aluminum. THAT'S IT!
Your pizza box that has grease or a bit of cheese stuck to the bottom? Contaminated.
Your plastic clamshell strawberry type container? Nope, not a good reusable plastic.
Take the lid off my water bottle before I recycle it? No way (too small-will slip through to the discard pile). Leave your plastic tops screwed on your plastic soda, water, Gatorade, etc.
Nothing smaller than a postcard or hockey puck should be recycled. Ideally you want to rinse your recyclables so there is no residue inside that will contaminate the cardboard, and other recyclables, it will inevitably touch during the process. Empty the contents of anything you put in the recycle bin. If you throw a water bottle into the recycle bin with water in it the weight of that bottle prevents it's from being diverted into the proper sorting line.
What about glass you ask? There is not really a great market for glass. Unfortunately. You may still recycle all those pickle jars and wine bottles no matter what color the glass may be. HOWEVER, know that most of your glass is not sold for reuse because nobody wants to buy it.
What about the lid from my can of tuna? The best idea is when you open the can you want to leave just a bit of the lid attached and tuck the lid into the can when you recycle it. The lid is so small it will slip by the magnets that grab the metal cans and end up in with the glass, no good.
You wouldn't BELIEVE what people put in the recycle bin. We saw entire mailboxes, strollers, umbrellas, shoes, clothing and plastic sheeting like you'd put down when you paint.
The absolute WORST thing for the machines is plastic bags. They wrap around the teeth of the sorters and delay the processing of materials. The plant shutdowns to scrape plastic bags off of the machines EIGHT times a day just to keep the machine from breaking down completely.
The Tampa plant that I toured was shutdown, a couple of years ago, for six weeks because a piece of clothing became wrapped around one of the sorters and it actually caught fire. It cost Waste Management over $1 million (which I'm sure indirectly we're all paying for). Education is key.
Just because it has a recycle symbol doesn't mean it goes in the recycle bin. Take your plastic bags and styrofoam containers to Publix to be recycled. Recycling words to live by: "When in doubt, throw it out".
Use reusable totes for your grocery shopping when possible.
If you forget your reusable bags ask for paper bags instead of plastic.
Think you're doing a good thing when you take a cardboard box and fill it with your water bottles, soda cans, metal cans from your green beans? WRONG! The machine doesn't know that your cardboard box is filled with bottles and cans. Those items could slip in with the cardboard and feed right into the baler. That bale is no longer 100% cardboard and could be rejected by the purchaser.
Last but not least, when possible buy products that are made from 100% recycled materials. Recycled materials are used to make clothing, school supplies, reliable water bottles and so much more.
If you have specific questions about if a particular item is recyclable please email me and I'll be happy to get you the answer if I am unsure. I hope this is just the beginning of a more eco-friendly Mount Dora. It starts with education so please pass this information along to all of your friends and neighbors.
I have lots of pictures and videos to share so please check out my Facebook Page to see the pictures and videos with descriptions.