Orange County, Fla., Reveals Key Data from Recycling Pilot

Orange County, Fla., Reveals Key Data from Recycling Pilot

The program found that, by far, plastic bags continue to be the top wrong item in recycling carts.

Orange County, Fla., has concluded a multi-week recycling improvement program pilot consisting of tagging blue-lid recycling carts at more than 640 households in the Park Manor subdivision in East Orange County.

The purpose of the program was to provide curbside feedback about the quality of recyclables and to educate residents about recycling right. The goal was to increase the amount of material being processed at recycling facilities by removing plastic bags and other non-recyclables from the carts.

Each week of the study, which started in June and ended in August, crews looked inside carts and left recycling feedback tags. Each cart was given a tag ranging from Great Job (near perfect), Good Try (a few recommended tweaks) or Oops (needs improvement) with some specific guidance explained in English and Spanish.

Overall, two truckloads—a total of 10 tons—of material was recycled from the neighborhood.

Orange County Recycling Pilot Graph

David Gregory, solid waste manager for Orange County Utilities, extended his appreciation to the Park Manor residents as well as the crews who tagged carts during the summer heat.

“This was a positive first step, but we still have more work to do,” said Gregory in a statement.

Of the tags issued, the program data showed:

  • Great Job tags issued increased from 31 percent to 53 percent of households.
  • Good Try tags did not contribute to improvement.
  • Oops tags issued decreased by 42 percent in the second half of the program—eight households had carts that were not collected.

Other key findings included that most households do not set out recycling every week. On average, 60 percent of households set out recycling carts in a given week. Of the wrong items, by far, plastic bags continue to be the top wrong item in carts, followed by “Yuck” items, such as garbage, food and liquids.

Gregory said the data gathered and lessons learned are essential for the next steps toward improving recycling countywide.

“Recycling industry standards have changed. We need to continue to look at the most efficient ways to improve the quality of the increased quantity left by the curb and are committed to improving recycling in Orange County,” he added.

Next steps include a possible second pilot area in early 2019 using only two tags (Oops and Great Job) and not collecting carts at addresses that continue to recycle improperly. Overall, the goal is to continue gathering enough data to determine bid specifics for a contractor to conduct a program countywide.

Orange County based its pilot off similar recycling tagging programs in Atlanta, Chicago and the state of Massachusetts.

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