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Jacksonville leaders working on reduction in contaminated recycled waste

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville leaders say recycling efforts across the city are improving. During a news conference at City Hall on Tuesday, they praised residents for being more mindful about what goes into their recycling bins.

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It stemmed from an audit launched last year and the results were shared. City officials said neighbors are recycling more, which means they’ve lowered contamination levels. The more people recycle, the less that goes into the city’s landfill. It’s something officials say saves money.

In the last 12 months, leaders say contamination levels in the recycling waste stream are down 23 percent. It comes after outreach efforts to make sure neighbors recycle the right way.

“Plastic bottles, detergent bottles, milk bottles,  your hard plastics, things you can’t stretch, put your finger through, all of those are recyclable in our program and get turned into new products,” Public Works official Eric Fuller said.

Action News Jax told you when the city started recycling report cards, they’d give a warning if your recycling wasn’t done right. Fuller said since more people are recycling, it’s saving money.

“We literally went through and observed 10s of thousands of recycling carts over a 7-month period,” he said. “Any contamination over 10 percent, we pay for that disposable. It’s $30.30 a ton, by reducing that we save roughly $70-to-80,000 a year in disposal costs.”

The city said those efforts led to roughly 240,000 households getting surveyed and helped educate 285,000 customers. Jacksonville City Council President, Ron Salem spoke about the biggest problem they noticed.

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“Don’t put your recycling in a plastic bag, it gets sent directly to the landfill. Just drop your stuff in the recycling bin, that’s our biggest problem,” he said.

Action News Jax also told you in 2022 when trash at Jacksonville’s only landfill was piling up beyond that year’s budgeted amount and recycling was partially to blame. A $560,000 match grant between the city and its recycling program was put to use; Fuller said it’s helping the landfill.

“The more material we recycle, that means less tons that goes into the landfill, it saves landfill space, if we recycle more, dispose less, we increase the life on the landfill so that’s a money saver,” he said.

As far as a potential new landfill, they’re looking at long-term plans for when its lifespan of 25-30 years comes to an end.

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