If you’re an Oviedo resident, visit www.recyclebank.com for more information about their rewards program. For more information about the Sierra Club, which has a branch that meets in Orlando, visit www.centralfloridasierra.org
Suggested headline: Hefty recycling goals
Cecilia Height’s garbage can is about one-third full when it’s picked up once a week, but her three recycling bins overflow. She carries a tiny fork and spoon wrapped in a cloth napkin tucked in her purse, just in case a place she goes has only plastic. Her to-go food from restaurants is taken never in Styrofoam, only in her reusable containers from home. For Height, a hospice nurse and member of the Sierra Club Florida Waste Minimization Team, recycling is a way of life.
“It’s an easy lifestyle,” the Seminole County resident said. “We can make a difference.”
And while Height certainly isn’t alone, she’s not part of a large group. She recycles about 70 percent of her waste — friends call her “the recycling queen.” And for Florida’s goal to reach a 75 percent recycling rate by 2020, she’s a model citizen, but most Central Florida cities have a long way to go before their rates reach that.
“We’re waves away from that 75 percent,” said Tim Maslow, sustainability coordinator for the city of Winter Park.
Winter Park recycles about 10 percent of its solid waste, Maslow said. But city officials are looking to improve that rate, and are using Oviedo as a model.
Oviedo residents are the best recyclers in Seminole County, said Johnny Edwards, solid waste manager for Seminole County. They recycle about 35 percent of their waste, and 500 pounds per home, per year. Residents have access to unlimited bins for recycling at no extra charge and can earn up to $100 in rebates each year using Recyclebank, a program that gives discounts in exchange for points you earn recycling. The program is free for residents, and included in the city’s waste contract. Oviedo is the only city that has it.
Since implementing unlimited bins, the city has seen 150 more pounds of waste per home, per year be recycled. Recyclebank has kept up resident recycling momentum, said Josef Grusauskas, Oviedo utility manager.
“It’s more of a reward for recycling being done, to not let it slip back,” Grusauskas said.
Winter Park’s waste plans
Winter Park is looking into new ways to improve the city’s recycling. They’ve included more recycling bins on Park Avenue, which was done last month. In the long term, city officials hope to put recycling bins in the parks and are debating larger recycling bins for residents or a pay-as-you-go method to garbage pickup — the more trash you create, the more you pay — depending on it being cost effective for the city and its residents.
Short term, they hope to create more space in the alleyways to make room for recycling for Park Avenue businesses. Those that participate would have to pay for pickup, though.
The struggle with apartments
They’re also in talks with a local apartment complex to add recycling there in the next month. Most multi-family dwellings are left out of the convenient community curbside programs, and this would be the start of a new pilot program for Winter Park. Even the larger complexes, for example the Village at Lake Lily, which only has cardboard recycling, and Lofts of Winter Park Village, don’t offer their own recycling facilities for everyday materials onsite. Property managers said it’s because of lack of space, and don’t see a future with recycling added, but many complexes don’t offer it because it costs extra money.
“In this economy, you want to cut costs and recycling costs money,” said Debbie Sponsler, section manager for the Orange County’s Utilities Solid Waste Division.
But one local apartment complex does offer recycling: Park East and Park Knowles. Property Manager Kerra Smith said that while it does cost them $120 a month for the service, the importance of recycling makes it worth it, especially because her residents want it.
“The effects and the benefits of having the recycling outweigh the cost,” she said.
“Having that option to recycle attracts more tenants,” Maslow said.
There’s also a cost in educating tenants on how to use the recycling bins. One of the biggest problems in apartment complex recycling is contamination — people putting the wrong things, or even their garbage, in the wrong bins, Sponsler said.
Economics play a role in recycling developments, too. The poor economy has cut waste in Orange and Seminole Counties by at least 20 percent — people buying less, keeping more and eating out less means less trash. But it also means less money to spend on recycling and the facilities necessary.
James Golden, a geologist with 30 years in environment and solid waste management consulting, said that the future will be in recycling, but he doesn’t think Florida can reach the 75 percent recycling goal by 2020, and even if it did on a state level, poor rural communities would never individually reach it.
“Unfortunately it takes investment,” he said.
Height thinks it’s worth the investment and time. As she sips her Whole Foods smoothie from a mason jar brought from home, she points out each person bringing in their own bags to use for shopping. She sees a friend in each one, and a future without so much waste.
“You save money, save the environment, happy animals, happy people, it’s all good.”