Good intentions to help save the Earth are being greeted with a pile-up of recycling in Santa Rosa County.
Throughout the holidays with the giving and receiving of gifts, an accumulation of waste products mount, fill and spill out of the...recycling bins. Santa Rosa is experiencing a holding issue with recycled products, according to county officials – and anyone who drives by the recycling bins on north Stewart St. near the Gulf Power station.
At the December board meeting, county commissioners discussed a recycling problem over the build up of products not being picked up by West Florida Recycling - due to the drop in the recycling market.
Commissioner Jim Melvin explained to the board that the problem could generate from a lack of interest in purchasing our recycling by the Chinese government. With Christmas packaging in – and around - the recycling bins, the evidence is obvious. "The market is evaporating and it's a problem for everyone, not just Santa Rosa County," says Melvin.
Historically, China has imported millions of tons of recycles, and according to national news sources, in 2011 the United States sold $10.8 billion in items like scrap metal, paper, cardboard and aluminum cans. The Washington Post said in May of the 52.8 million tons of paper and paperboard recycled by the U.S., 15.8 million tons were sent to China.
As for plastics, China imports nearly half of recycled bottles and containers of all sorts, totaling around $500 million. This was working all well and good however the relationship seems to be over. Recent reports said China decided on a new policy to prohibit the import of unwashed post-consumer plastics and other contaminated waste shipments. This stalled the imports from the U.S. and in turn becomes a problem on the home front.
Santa Rosa residents recycle.
But where will it go from there? Santa Rosa County averages approximately 500 tons per month of incoming recycling materials from Waste Management and Waste Pro, with additional 200 tons each month from drop sites provided by West Florida Recycling.
Now with West Florida Recycling collecting reusable waste at a slower pace, a pileup is resulting at recycling stations around the county. Melvin addressed the issue saying a new contract with another recycling company would only be a short-term fix and the worst case scenario would be to deal with it ourselves.
"We need to prepare now," says Melvin. Additionally, Melvin says he doesn't know if the county will be utilizing the landfills to dispose of the salvage if there is no solution. "The staff is looking into the problem," he says.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the volume of household waste in the US typically increases 25 percent through the holidays, totaling about one million extra tons.