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Orange County, Fla., Utilities Launches Recycling Improvement Pilot Program

The six-week pilot program aims to educate residents on recycling correct materials.

In an effort to remove plastic bags and other non-recyclable items from the Orange County, Fla., recycling program, Orange County Utilities is launching a pilot program to study and improve recycling habits in unincorporated Orange County.

Phase one of the six-week pilot program will begin with 600 households to help the county plan for a countywide recycling improvement program.

Based on similar programs in Massachusetts, Atlanta and Chicago that showed promising results, the program involves staff members looking inside carts and leaving a tag with recycling feedback.

Each cart will be given a weekly tag ranging from Great Job (near perfect), Good Try (a few recommended tweaks) or Oops (needs improvement) with some specific guidance to explain in English and Spanish what specifically needs improvement. For example, if a resident has all recyclables in plastic bags, that will be noted so residents can learn to leave the items loose in the cart.

“A little more than two years ago, the county began weekly collection of 95-gallon blue lid recycling carts, which increased the volume collected,” said David Gregory, manager of Orange County Utilities’ Solid Waste Division, in a statement. “We’re collecting more material, and now we need to help customers better understand what we can accept.”

Orange County collects 5,000 tons a month on average, and it recently increased the quantity of non-recyclable materials accepted. However, the market value for recyclables, which had once been more robust and provided a return for materials, recently changed, and it now costs counties and cities significantly more to process materials.

“It is imperative that we improve the quality of recyclables in our program in order to maintain a cost-effective program in Orange County,” said Gregory in a statement.

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