CLEARWATER, Fla. — The city reported residents collected more than a million pounds of recyclables last month, but I-Team Reporter Jackie Callaway uncovered nearly 40 percent of all that recycling wound up in the trash and burned.
“The story helped us bring light on the subject that we need to move a little more quickly,” said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.
Cretekos brought up the issue at a recent City Council meeting after seeing the I-Team story.
In September, Clearwater Solid Waste Director Earl Gloster told ABC Action News the city burned so much recycling because people dumped garbage in their recycle bins.
Gloster pledged to have solid waste workers start picking the trash out of the recyclables after the I-Team started asking questions. But when we went back three weeks later, our cameras caught city recycling trucks headed straight to the incinerator.
Cretekos defended that practice, saying, “If 30 or 40 percent of the load is contaminated, it is taken to the incinerator.”
Other Clearwater officials are still defending incineration as an acceptable form of recycling because the Pinellas Energy Plant powers about 40,000 homes.
The I-Team checked with Pinellas Park, St. Pete and Largo, which all reported none of the recyclable materials collected in those cities is burned. Those communities have a contract with a private recycling company that sorts the recycling from the trash.