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Hillsborough County Solid Waste Management says nearly a quarter of recycled items are trash

Posted at 3:26 PM, Feb 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-21 18:42:50-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County Solid Waste Management is working to find out how much trash people are putting in their recycling bins. They say nationally, trash makes up nearly a quarter of all recycled material.

Bowling balls, household waste, coffee makers and even plastic bags - they are all things people are putting in their recycling bins, even though they shouldn’t be. This added trash is raising the workload and danger for workers.

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“When in doubt, throw it out,” said Travis Barnes, the Hillsborough County Recycling Coordinator.

Just because it’s made of plastic, or says it’s recyclable, doesn’t mean it should go in your curbside bin.

“A plastic hose, you can imagine why people would think it’s recyclable, however this would get wrapped up in our separation equipment,” said Barnes.

Barnes said plastic hoses are things that could potentially shut down an entire plant, and create a big danger for workers who have to go in and get it.

“We also see lots of items like this scrap metal you see here, the radiator, the chairs,” said Barnes.

Those are all things that can be recycled elsewhere, just not in your curbside bin.

And a small item causing big problems, is plastic bags.

“That would jam up our separation equipment, and the processing line is moving too fast and it’s not safe to open up because we get needles and other things like that,” said Barnes.

As part of a Hillsborough County Solid Waste Management Study, they’re studying the value of commonly recycled items, but also identifying common mistakes people are making.

“Nationally, for every 100 tons of recyclables we bring in, nearly a quarter of it is garbage,” said Barnes.

They’re hoping to educate the public on the items Solid Waste Management actually wants.

“The core items that we want is clean and dry cardboard, clean and dry paper and paperboard like cereal boxes, food and beverage containers are highly valuable and great environmental benefit, also clean glass beverage containers, and our clean plastic containers,” said Barnes.

For more information on what to put in your bins, click here.