The proper management of solid waste is a critical component of a community’s infrastructure and contributes significantly to the overall quality of life. Local governments have the challenge of managing waste collection and disposal, which is among the costliest of municipal services. Amid a rapidly growing population, waste management issues are becoming increasingly crucial for the promotion of environmental sustainability.
Waste has been a major environmental issue everywhere since the industrial revolution. The material goods that we humans rely on so much almost always end up as waste. Floridians generate approximately 9.12 pounds per person per day on average in 2014 for Florida residents, according to the Solid Waste Management in Florida 2014 Annual Report from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Multiply this by the population of each community and that is what local government leaders are up against every day. Waste handling is becoming more expensive because of increased volume and the need for more landfill capacity, tighter regulations for landfills, recycling mandates, and unstable markets for recyclable materials. The careful planning and implementation of solid waste management programs have become high priorities for government and industry.
The conventional approach of solid waste management has been to manage the removal of the solid waste discards from the immediate vicinity of human settlements. This resulted in a highly mechanized system of collection and transportation of waste to bury in local landfills or transport the waste to other communities. As populations increase, landfills reach capacity and newer facilities remain costly and are increasingly difficult to site. In addition to capacity limitations, local landfills account for approximately 26% of total methane emissions for the U.S. as a whole according to the Environmental Protection Agency. With a radiative forcing factor of about 21 times that of CO2, methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
With an ever increasing volume of waste, the traditional method of solid waste management is not sustainable. Therefore, the focus of waste management has shifted from “efficient removal and disposal” to waste avoidance, minimization and recycling options. Sustainable waste management aims to address the long term consequences of waste disposal through the recovery, recycling, and reuse of resources, and reducing waste streams. This includes the management of resources in an environmentally sound and economically effective manner.
In 2008, the Florida Legislature enacted House Bill 7135, which created Section 403.7032, Florida Statutes. This established a new statewide recycling goal of 50% for 2014 and 75% to be achieved by 2020. Also, the statute directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to develop a program designed to achieve this goal and submit it to the Legislature for approval. FDEP submitted its 75% Reduction Report in January 2010. According to the FDEP 2014 Solid Waste Report, Florida’s average recycling rate in 2014 was 50%, well above the 40% target rate specified in the Florida Statute. Eighteen counties led the way with recycling rates in 2014 between 50% and 70%. As of January 1, 2015, the Department also recognized 29 businesses and other organization with recycling rate of at least 50%. At least 20 state, county and city governmental agencies reported a 2013 recycling rate of at least 50%.
Additionally, Florida’s Community Planning Act (Chapter 163, Part II, Florida Statutes) requires that each local government in Florida prepare and adopt and Comprehensive Plan, which must include “a general sanitary sewer, solid waste, drainage, potable water, and natural groundwater aquifer recharge element (Section 163.3177(6)(c), F.S.). Best practices for addressing sustainable solid waste management should include a waste audit. This is audit is a crucial first step in reducing the flow of waste. It can identify opportunities for waste diversion, prevention and reduction, and increasing recycling. Review historic data to determine how much is being thrown out, how much is being recycled and any other programs that your community may have in place. It’s also helpful to document the cost associated with disposal and reduction programs.
Based on these requirements, all of Florida’s local governments’ comprehensive plans comprehensive plan must have the goal of reducing the amount of trash that enters the waste stream. Solutions include programs that encourage recycling and reusing materials, increasing composting of organic waste and turning waste into usable energy. More communities are looking at their waste stream as a potential source of energy. The term waste-to-energy is used for many different types of projects, including capturing landfill methane for electricity generation or fuel use, diverting organics for processing in anaerobic digesters, or converting waste vegetable oil into biodiesel.
The terms reuse and recycle have specific meanings, but they are often confused, switched, and misused, especially in commerce. Recycling is using waste as material to manufacture a new product. Recycling involves altering the physical form of an object or material and making a new object from the altered material. With recycling, you generally need to collect a material, transport it, clean and sort it, transform it into a new product, package the product, and market the product. Making a product out of recycled materials is better than using raw materials
Reuse is not recycling because reuse does not alter the physical form of an object. Reuse is using an object or material again, either for its original purpose or for a similar purpose. Reuse prevents objects and material from becoming waste and is considered to be a form of waste reduction or prevention. Reuse is preferred to recycling because reuse consumes less energy and resources than recycling. Additionally, reuse programs can save communities the cost and GHG emissions of landfilling or combusting usable wastes. Reuse programs employ a variety of practices to publicize and motivate reuse, and to make reuse easier for both waste sources and re-users.
One exception to the normal preference of reuse to the purchasing new items might be some appliances. It is often environmentally preferable to replace very old refrigerators, clothes washers, clothes dryers, or central heating and air conditioning units with new appliances if given a choice between repair and replacement, because the amount of energy (and water, in the case of clothes washers) used to operate some older appliances is substantially more than the amount used to operate new appliances. Of course attempts should be made when replacing appliances to have the metal in the discarded appliances recycled.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
A waste management sustainability plan should address the 3 R’s of the waste stream – reduce, reuse and recycle. Communities and individuals can use a variety of methods to reduce the amount of waste going into the waste stream and reduce the cost of waste removal, and alleviate the burden on landfills.
- EDUCATION – Educate local residents and business owners to recognize the value of waste prevention – not creating waste in the first place – and promote waste prevention. Discourage the use of disposable products and encourage a reduction in the amount of material used and/or the toxicity of the material used to create a product or its packaging. Encourage the purchase of repairable, refillable, durable products that result in a longer useful life
- REDUCE – Many practices can help municipalities reduce the amount of waste requiring disposal. Reducing the amount you buy is the most significant of all the options to manage waste. The key is to only purchase goods that we need and in the right amount. – Encourage material Reuse Centers, thrift shops and local resale events and programs that provide a mechanism to pass on still useful, discarded products in their original form to those who can use them. Maintain appropriate zoning to enable these centers to remain in areas conveniently accessible by city residents. (Local action)Examples of reuse:
- Donation, exchange or surplusing can enable reuse of some types of materials that otherwise would go to waste. Municipalities and other government agencies might send surplus items to other public offices or institutions for reuse, might advertise surplus and reusable items through a commercial materials exchange, or might operate or participate in a government surplus warehouse where public agencies can select items for reuse or usable items can be sold to the public.
- REUSE – Find uses for things you discard. Promote Re-use Centers, where items like building materials can be recycled back into the community rather than sent to landfills. When you go to the grocery store, try to remember to bring reusable bags. Many stores give you credits for bringing your own bags. While the amount seems small, over the course of a year it can add up. Consult your phone directory to see if your community has a reuse center.
- Communities can operate or support materials reuse programs that employ accessible drop-off sites, telephone hotlines or web sites to facilitate donations and/or exchanges of furniture, appliances, office equipment, art supplies, and other still-usable items. Local governments can sponsor or facilitate community-wide garage sales or yard sales. These sales are a popular form of waste prevention and reuse that also promote community spirit and engage citizens in waste reduction.
- At Home–Wash and reuse your plastic food bags. Buy reusable plastic storage containers to store leftover food, and to store foods that you buy in bulk. Consult material exchanges to purchase used items or to find new homes for items that you no longer need. If you remodel your home, consider using reused building materials, and send demolition materials that you create for reuse. Bring a reusable coffee mug or commuter mug with you when you buy coffee drinks.
- In Business–Purchase “recycled” ink and toner cartridges for your printers and photocopiers. Have the tires on your cars retreaded when the tread is worn, but the tire is otherwise reusable.
- RECYCLE – Provide convenient opportunities for recycling. Set up your office, business, household, etc. to make recycling easy. Keep recycling waste containers or baskets in strategic locations along with ordinary waste baskets. It is easier to toss recyclables in a separate container than it is to rummage through the trash later to separate everything.
Examples of recycling:
- Encourage recycling-on-the-go at public events
- At Home–Placing all your paper, cardboard, boxboard such as empty cereal boxes and empty toilet paper tubes, into the recycle bin, and then purchasing paper products made from post-consumer recycled paper. Note that if you “recycle” paper, plastic, or anything, but you do not buy products made from postconsumer recycled material, then you are not completing the “cycle.”
- In Business–Old tires can be ground up and used to make a wide variety of things, including rubber mats, door mats, pet food bowls, and playground cover. The canvas covered mats in marital arts dojos are commonly stuffed with ground up tires. Used motor oil can be reprocessed into new motor oil, and motor oil made from this “rerefined” oil is widely available.
- Start municipal composting programs in public parks, schools, and at home. Approximately two-thirds of our household waste can be composted. If compost is not an option, vermiposting (composting with worms) is popular in apartment settings. Additionally, many urban areas are now experiencing an increased interest in urban gardening. Look around your communities and neighborhoods to find local gardens that may accept your food scrapes for compost.
- Provide disposal opportunities for difficult items. – For items difficult to recycle – batteries, electronic waste (computers, CDs, DVDs, cell phones, etc.), and bulk items such as large appliances and furniture – provide disposal opportunities such as semi-annual recycling events, and provide information on local businesses that accept such items for disposal. The list of electronics covered through product stewardship should be expanded. (Local Actions)
Demonstrate recycling practices. – Develop and publicize recycling activities in municipal operations. Provide recycling opportunities at public events and educate the public on recycling benefits. Include environmentally preferred purchasing practices in municipal purchasing guidelines; these practices should favor products that promote reduction and reuse (vs. single-use), reduce consumption of raw materials, and present less risk to human and ecological health. Where reuse is impractical, encourage one-time use of biodegradable materials. (Local Action)
- Remove organic wastes. – Remove organics from the disposal stream so that they can be beneficially used for healthy soils, bioenergy production, and new products. Provide convenient opportunities for converting organic yard, food and agricultural waste to a useful product such as compost or animal feed, rather than including organic waste in the disposal stream. These opportunities may include yard-waste collection with municipal composting, neighborhood and individual on-site composting, worm bins, etc.. (Local Action)
- Establish Environmentally Preferred PURCHASING (EPP) standards. – Establish purchasing standards for municipal buildings, furnishings and equipment. Select items to purchase based on their use of recycled materials and potential for reuse/recycling and deconstruction after use is complete. Support product purchasing that focuses on reuse and recycling. Ensure that these approaches are supported in the local regulatory process. (Local Actions)
- Provide for the proper use, storage and disposal of household hazardous waste. – Household wastes such as pesticides, oil-based paint, toxic cleaning products, fluorescent light bulbs, antifreeze, hobby chemicals, thinners and solvents, automotive products, aerosols, glues, and adhesives pose a hazard to humans, water supplies and natural systems. Educate the community regarding the short and long-term risks associated with the improper use, storage and disposal of hazardous materials. (Local Action)
Florida/National Studies, Research & Materials
Webinars & Presentations
Businesses Recycling Workshop Video Series. The Southern Waste Information eXchange, Inc. (SWIX), is a non-profit clearinghouse and repository for businesses and government agencies looking for information regarding: Market development, Recycled products, Solid and hazardous waste management, Current regulations/legislation, Alternative and emerging waste management technologies, Trade journals and associations, Technical reports, The availability of and demand for waste materials; and Waste management services and products.
Recycling in Broward County. Slide presentation on recycling options.
How Local Governments in Florida are Stimulating More Business Recycling. YouTube presentation from the Southern Waste Information eXchange (SWIX)
Promoting Recycling Behavior That Works! Keep America Beautiful Webinar, August 2014. The effectiveness of any recycling program hinges on understanding human behavior, and in many cases, asking individuals to change their behaviors. This webinar will summarize the findings from behavioral science with regard to effective strategies for encouraging people to recycle, including recommendations for program design and marketing. The webinar also shares results from a survey conducted in partnership with The George Washington University regarding participants’ feedback on bin shape, color and signage.
The Future of Solid Waste Management in Florida – Economic and Sustainability Effects. Slide presentation by Robert L. Westly, P.G., CPG, National Partner, Environmental Management Systems; Air & Waste Management Association, Florida Section 48th Annual FL Section Conference, October 16, 2012.
Making Mountains out of Landfills: Lesson 8, America Reviled – PBS presentation. What kind of trash does America generate each year? Where does it go? What impact does our waste have on the environment? How can we reduce our trash output? Enhance your health, science, and environmental studies curriculum with this video which features a landfill in South Jersey and examines the state of food waste in America today. Then, use the accompanying lesson plan to prepare students to visually track and document different kinds of trash in their community.
Pinellas County Recycling Options. Comprehensive web site with information on recycling options available throughout Pinellas County.
The Sharing Tree. The Sharing Tree, a reusable resource center, is a partnership of Leon County Schools, Goodwill, Sustainable Tallahassee and Leon County government. The vision of The Sharing Tree is to be the regional model for recycling and reuse for educational and creative purposes. The Sharing Tree has expanded it’s mission to include artists, other educators and the broader learning community which includes childcare providers, home school teachers, and private school teachers. It is truly amazing how many great materials are filling this 5,000 square foot building. When people ask what does The Sharing Tree have? I answer with…what don’t we have. From buttons and beads to books and binders, The Sharing Tree is a mecca of perfectly good and reusable materials. In years to come, The Sharing Tree hopes to be the hub for donations, creative reuse and community education.
How To Guide for Homeowners, Sarasota County. This guide provides important information about Sarasota County’s solid waste programs and services. The guide is intended for residents living in the unincorporated area of the county. Residents who live in a city or town may contact their municipality for program information. Information on household hazardous waste applies to all residents regardless of where they live in the county.
Recycle Brevard. Recycle Brevard, Inc. is an independent 501(c)3 Florida not-for-profit organization, 100% funded by sponsorships and donations, 100% run by volunteers. On this website we share information and resources that should help you understand, learn more, know what is available in our community, and find out what is being done locally and globally in respect to the practice of the 3 Rs.
Recycling Awards Program. Palm Coast, Florida starts a recycling awards program. The program’s objective is clearly explained through the following statement: “The more often you recycle, the larger the reward opportunity.” The Palm Coast Recycling Program not only helps the planet, but also turns recycling into a fun and rewarding game while simultaneously encouraging Palm Coast citizens to grow more involved in their community.
Tips for Recycling. Your one stop source for recycling facts and information, and tips for living green. Whether you are a homeowner looking for recycling information, a student researching the field of recycling, or an industry professional looking for ways to start or boost a residential recycling program, we’ve got information that you’ll find valuable in your search.
Community Recycling Success Story: Palm Beach County
Rural School Case Studies in Waste Reduction, Reuse, Recycling and Composting. Pasco County Florida School District has reduced solid waste by approximately 40% and lowered its disposal costs from $600,000 to $300,000 annually. Each school is required to recycle a variety of materials to help reduce solid waste generation. Staff collect recyclables from 10-12 schools each day, transport the materials to Distribution Services, and sort them into roll-off or other containers for collection by a local recycler.
Managing Household Trash: Preventing Waste, Reusing, Recycling and Composting. Michigan State University Extension: Home*A*Syst. Examines current waste disposal practices and ways to reduce the amount of household trash produced and the many alternatives to dispose of waste.
Florida Administrative Code: FDEP Rules related to recycling
Florida Statutes regarding recycling: In addition to the 75% recycling goal, there are some other statutes that affect either directly or indirectly, the implementation of this goal.
Recycle Florida Today. RFT is Florida’s leading recycling association and is recognized by the industry as the state recycling organization (SRO). RFT takes a proactive approach in keeping its members informed on legislative issues that pertain to the industry. RFT continuously strives to provide new opportunities for education and networking through their Issues Forum and Annual Conference.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Waste Management. The Division of Waste Management implements state and federal laws relating to recycling, pollution prevention and solid and hazardous waste management. The Division also regulates and registers aboveground and underground pollutant storage systems. Using private contractors, it cleans up sites contaminated with petroleum products, dry-cleaning solvents or other hazardous wastes. The Division works closely with the District Waste Management Programs to implement permitting, compliance and enforcement activities. The Division has three program areas, Permitting and Compliance Assistance, Waste Cleanup and Petroleum Cleanup
America Recycles Day. America Recycles Day, a national initiative of Keep America Beautiful, has been an annual event since 1985. Participants are asked to take a pledge to Learn: I will find out what materials are collected for recycling in my community; Act: Reduce my personal waste by recycling – within the next month, I will recycle more; and Share: In the next month, I will encourage one family member or one friend to take the pledge.
Southern Waste Information eXchange, Inc. (SWIX). The Southern Waste Information eXchange, Inc. (SWIX), is a non-profit clearinghouse and repository for businesses and government agencies looking for information regarding:
- Market development
- Recycled products
- Solid and hazardous waste management
- Current regulations/legislation
- Alternative and emerging waste management technologies
- Trade journals and associations
- Technical reports
- The availability of and demand for waste materials; and
- Waste management services and products
Florida Recycling Partnership. Florida Recycling Partnership is a coalition of businesses and associations dedicated to improving Florida’s recycling rates. Our members are proactively implementing initiatives in their organizations and companies to reduce the waste they produce, and increase recycled materials. Additionally our companies are working to create greater recycling opportunities for consumers. They believe in the symbols … reduce, reuse and recycle. Florida Recycling Partnership mission is to educate policy makers and the general public on the benefits of recycling. Our members believe developing and adopting sustainable business practices will promote recycling, reduce waste, and increase the reuse of materials whenever possible.
National Recycling Coalition. The National Recycling Coalition is a non-profit organization that is focused on the promotion and enhancement of recycling in the United States. The Coalition represents and advocates for every sector of the recycling industry across the country. (on the local, state and federal levels) We are the voice for our membership. We provide our members with the tools and resources they need to convey to their community members, decision makers, and the news media the important benefits that recycling provides to our economy and environment. We also develop meaningful partnerships with corporate, government, and nonprofit leaders to bring about important changes in the way we use, manage, and recycle natural resources.
Recycling and Donation Resources. Nationwide resources provided to assist companies and families to recycle and donate unwanted goods.
Reducde.org: Reduce Waste. If not you, who? Learn more about reducing waste (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)
Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has collected and reported data on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States for more than 30 years. We use this information to measure the success of waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. These facts and figures are current through calendar year 2012.
 Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), 2014 Annual Report, Solid Waste Management in Florida, http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/recycling/SWreportdata/14_data.htm