Clay County halts curbside recycling, highlighting growing trash troubles across the U.S.

Ten drop-sites are available to residents while collection services are suspended.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. —

For many American households and businesses, recycling has become second nature. From airports and office buildings to gas stations and restaurants, labeled recycling bins can be found everywhere. But over the last several months, many U.S. cities have begun halting recycling collection services over growing labor shortages.

Last week, unincorporated areas of Clay County and the City of Keystone Heights became the latest in our area.

In a July Board of County Commissioners Meeting, commissioners said the temporary suspension would allow leaders to dedicate limited resources to the collection of yard waste and garbage. Collection services will be evaluated monthly to determine the earliest date curbside recycling services can resume.

For now, residents of Green Cove Springs, Orange Park, and Penney Farms will not be affected by the suspension because they are under a different collection program.

“Staying the course is not working, we have to address the yard waste collection issue and we need to make sure that our residents have clear communication on what to expect moving forward and where they can drop off recyclable materials,” Chairman of the Clay County Board of County Commissioners Mike Cella said.

“I am in favor of negotiating with Waste Management to rebate funds to our constituents for undelivered services and also be compensated above and beyond for the inconvenience of missed collections. I would also like to see Waste Management reimburse the County for lost revenue when we suspend recycling,” Cella continued.

Clay Commissioners said after they conduct a financial impact review of costs, they will consider options for refunds or tax credits for residents.

Ten drop-off sites are available to Clay residents while recycling services are suspended.

Recycling plays a crucial role in minimizing waste and preserving natural resources. Reusing materials like wood, minerals, and water reduces the need for resource cultivation, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes.

According to the EPA, the United States is one of the most wasteful developed countries — producing over 292 million tons of trash yearly, or approximately 4.9 pounds per person per day.

In 2018, China, once the top buyer of the world’s used plastic banned imports because its recyclers were overwhelmed, putting pressure on the United States and the rest of the developed world to deal with its own waste.

More than 90% of plastic gets dumped or incinerated because there’s no cheap way to repurpose it, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. When that waste sits in a landfill, it decomposes, emitting methane, which is bad for the climate—landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the country, according to a 2019 report by The Atlantic.

Plastic production – which industry analysts forecast to double by 2040 – will be the biggest growth market for oil demand over the next decade, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

And the sheer volume of recycling products in this country makes it impossible for recycling plants to handle demands without the use of automation and is one of several factors fueling a labor shortage in waste management.

Temporary Drop-off Locations:
  • Fleming Island Library, 1895 Town Center Blvd., Fleming Island, open 24/7
  • Oakleaf Community Park, 3979 Plantation Oaks Blvd, Orange Park, open 24/7
  • Ronnie Van Zant Park, 2760 Sandridge Rd, Green Cove Springs, open 24/7
  • Sunrise Park, 7933 Sunrise Blvd, Keystone Heights, open 24/7
  • Walter Odum Park, 450 Parkwood Drive, Orange Park, open 24/7
Established Drop-off Sites:
  • Clay Hill Environmental Convenience Center, 5869 CR 218, Middleburg, open Thurs. – Sat., 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Doctor’s Inlet Environmental Convenience Center, 288 Sleepy Hollow Rd, Middleburg, open Thurs. – Sat., 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Keystone Heights Environmental Convenience Center, 5505 CR 214, Keystone Heights, open Thurs. – Sat., 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Long Bay Environmental Convenience Center, 1589 Long Bay Rd, Middleburg, open Thurs. – Sat., 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Rosemary Hill Solid Waste Management Facility, 3545 Rosemary Hill Rd, Green Cove Springs, open Mon. – Sat., 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Note: Rosemary Hill is a high-traffic location accepting commercial and residential waste for the entire county. There may be long lines and wait times.

For more information call the Clay County Environmental Services Department at (904) 284-6374.

Samantha Mathers

Samantha Mathers, Action News Jax

Samantha Mathers is a digital reporter and content creator.