Trash and other dangerous items are being placed in Jacksonville recycling bins – and it could end up costing taxpayers more money.
No matter where you live in Northeast Florida, the materials you recycle end up at the Republic Services recycling plant on Imeson Road.
General Manager Bill Brinkley says more than a quarter of the 350 tons of material coming into the recycling plant each day is trash -- or other contaminants -- and it can not be recycled.
“We’ve seen knives, we’ve seen weapons of sorts. You name it, we’ve seen it,” Brinkley said.
He showed Action News Jax reporter Brittney Donovan bizarre items – from diapers, to batteries and even a kitchen garbage disposal -- that are coming into the plant.
He said along with those items, one of the biggest challenges is plastic bags. They are not able to be recycled at the plant.
“The grocery bags and the loose plastic that fits around cases of water bottles – that type of loose plastic,” he said. “It really clogs up our machinery here and shuts us down.”
Right now, the City of Jacksonville pays Republic Services a little over $2 million a year to process residents’ recycling.
Recycling can be a profitable business and the city gets back about 50 percent of what the company makes on the recycled goods.
But the extra time and effort sorting out the garbage cuts into the bottom line.
“Once it gets in a bail, it can’t be greater than 2 percent contamination. So we have to go from 26 percent down to 2 percent through this sort process,” Brinkley said.
Brinkley has petitioned the city to help cover the added cost of sorting out the trash and taking it to the landfill – which could cost taxpayers.
Action News Jax spoke with the city's general counsel. They say public works has been asked to consider assisting Republic with increased costs but the City hasn't made a decision yet.
“We say, when in doubt, throw it out. So if you’re not totally sure about if something can be recycled, it’s better off going in the trash,” Anne Marie Moquin of Beaches Go Green said.
Moquin is working with Brinkley and Atlantic and Neptune Beach leaders to help educate people about what can be recycled.
“You put something in and hope it’s going to be recycled but you don’t understand there are repercussions that can mess up a whole batch,” she said. “We’re trying to come forth with an easy, consistent message across the cities.”
It’s one of several ways the beaches are working to cut down on waste and encourage recycling.
“The issue of cost is one thing, but we want to lead by example, being good stewards of the environment,” Kevin Hogencamp, deputy city manager of Atlantic Beach, said.
Brinkley said he believes education will be key in lowering the contamination rate from 26.3 percent to around ten.
He is urging anyone with questions about what they should and should not put in recycling bins to go to recyclingsimplified.com.
The company says all recyclables should be empty, clean and dry -- meaning they are free of food and liquid. Never put recyclables in bags or containers.
Items you can put in your recycling bin:
• Paper and cardboard
• Metal cans
• Plastic bottles and jugs
• Glass (preferably not broken)
Items you should never put in your bin:
• Food waste
• Soiled or wet paper and cardboard
• Bottles filled with liquid
• Coffee cups
• Plastic bags
Click here to read about how you can be more green from Beaches Go Green.