Pinellas County officials seek to promote proper recycling habits ahead of holidays.By Casey Albritton

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – This year the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste is seeing an increase in cardboard box waste because of the pandemic,  now employees are working around the clock to remind people how important it is to recycle.

The Department of Solid Waste typically educates about 10,000 people per year about recycling, but this year, since the pandemic began, they’re only reaching less than 1,000. Now the department is holding more virtual presentations than ever before. This holiday season, shopping looks a little different. “Because of the pandemic, people are ordering online more than ever so we expect to see a lot of packaging, boxes,” said Sarah Herzig with the Pinellas County Department of Public Waste.

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It’s something, Jan Tracy, with the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste says she already starting to notice this week. “I took a look in our collections center, which is where residents can bring their recyclables and i saw a lot of cardboard boxes,” said Tracy.

Employee, Sarah Herzig, says cardboard isn’t the only problem. “Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, we give out 25% more waste, about a million tons a week of extra garbage.”

That’s why the department is holding virtual presentations regularly to let people know what’s safe to recycle. “Clean and dry paper, cardboard, plastic…” said Herzig.

The presentations also review what’s not safe to recycle. “Foil, wrapping paper, anything with glitter on it. No ribbons or bows,” said Herzig.

The pandemic is also impacting how the department educates people. “We haven’t been able to go to schools, but we’ve been able to provide presentations so they can come to us virtually,” said Herzig.

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But there’s one thing the department says is a silver lining in 2020. “Since people are not having large gatherings this year, it’s a great opportunity to start a tradition of using reusable dishes,” said Herzig.

Pinellas County’s website offers the following breakdown of what to recycle:

  • Metal cans: No lids, labels okay
  • Glass bottles and jars: No lids, labels okay
  • Plastic bottles and jugs: No caps, labels okay
  • Paper & cardboard: Clean and dry, no shredded paper
  • Metal cans: No lids, labels okay
  • Cartons: No straws or caps

Check with your city for further details.

When in doubt throw it out: These items do not belong in your recycling bin

  • Other plastics not listed above
  • Bags of any kind
  • Ceramic dishware
  • Styrofoam
  • Cords, wires and hoses
  • Food-soiled items

Pinellas County says nothing smaller than your fist should be placed in your recycling bin.

They elaborate that small items are not properly sorted at recycling facilities and end up contaminating other recyclable materials. At the Material Recovery Facility (MRF), different types of recyclables are sorted and baled to be sold separately. Glass bottles and jars are crushed and sorted toward the end of this process. Small items that are not caught by the sorting machinery end up in the glass, which is a problem because manufacturers need clean glass in order to recycle it into new products. Glass that is contaminated with other materials takes extra fuel, time and resources to clean it before it can be turned into a new glass product. Glass can be infinitely recycled, but the type of sand used to make glass products is a finite resource. Making sure that all of our glass bottles and jars can be recycled saves precious natural resources.

For a printable guide and further information, visit Pinellas County’s website. Readers outside Pinellas County are encouraged to review local recycling guidelines.

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