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Jacksonville sending 85% fewer recyclables to recycling center since curbside pick up stopped

But the good news: the loads are more full of items that can actually be recycled

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Some of you in Jacksonville are so dedicated to recycling, you’re actually driving to drop-off sites across the city in order to continue the earth-friendly practice.

The City of Jacksonville pushed pause on curbside recycling pickup in the fall in order to prioritize the collection of household trash. 

After all that work of driving your recyclables to a dumpster at a drop-off somewhere, is the stuff getting recycled?

Every bit of household recycling in North Florida ends up at the Republic Services Recycling Center in Northwest Jacksonville.

Republic Services of Jacksonville' General Manager Bill Brinkley says since the City of Jacksonville temporarily stopped sending recycling trucks into neighborhoods, fewer recyclables are being unloaded at the center.

"It's probably about an 85 percent decline," he told First Coast News. 

Credit: Jessica Clark
Bill Brinkley, GM of Republic Services in Jacksonville, watches a conveyor belt at the Recycling Center

When the City of Jacksonville was still doing curbside recycling pick up, the amount on the conveyor belts inside the center was so thick, he could barely see the actual belt. 

That's not the case now. 

However, what is going to the Recycling Center from Jacksonville residents now are things that are actually recyclable and there's less trash. 

"So kudos to the Duval County residents who are taking the material to the drop-off sites. They’re doing a fantastic job," Brinkley said. "It’s clean."

Clean, meaning less contamination, or items that can’t be recycled.

And contamination is "huge," according to Brian Hughes, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Jacksonville Mayor’s Office. 

"Anything that goes into the recycling process stream that is not recyclable ultimately costs the city money," Hughes noted. 

Here’s why - When a truck brings in a load to the recycling center, the entire load is weighed.

Then everything is sorted. Recyclable goods vs. the stuff that can’t be recycled, which is then considered trash.

Then everything, once sorted, is weighed again. 

The City of Jacksonville – like most places – has to pay for any trash or contamination that is above the agreed weight.

The number one non-recyclable or contaminant that winds up at the Recycling Center: plastic bags.

Jeff Duncan is like many who drive his recyclables to a drop-off site.  And like many, he brings his in a plastic garbage bag. 

"When the citizens have to bring the recyclables up here, it’s a lot more convenient to put it in bags, regular garbage bags," Duncan said. 

The problem is those bags jam up the machines at the Recycling Center. 

Brinkley said, "When there’s so much of it (plastic bags in the system), at times we just shut it down."

During First Coast News' visit to the Recycling Center,  the machines were indeed stopped to clean out the bags stuck in the gears.

And if you think the center's staff will just take a plastic bag full of items and dump its contents out at the center, they won’t. Brinkley said it's too risky.

"My employees have ripped open too many plastic bags and needles (and sharp objects) have popped out," Brinkley said. "And our employees have gotten needle pokes. That’s a scary thing."

Brinkley’s advice to residents: just empty the recyclables from the bags into the bins or dumpsters and reuse the bag.

He said 85% of what goes to the recycling center is indeed recycled.

If you think you want curbside recycling pick up back, Brinkley definitely does.

"I’m just hopeful to get more volume into my recycling center," he said. 

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