Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
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Reluctant recyclers Hernando County posts lackluster recycling numbers

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While numbers of people who recycle increased slightly statewide last year, a new report shows Hernando had lackluster participation and placed in the lower half of Florida counties during that period.

Hernando ranked 38th of Florida’s 67 counties for its recycling efforts in 2013. Among the county’s approximately 173,000 residents, 25 percent recycled items such as newspapers, plastics and cans. That percentage remains unchanged from the previous year.

Environmental Services Director Susan Goebel-Canning said she is not surprised by the mediocre recycling numbers because education efforts dropped off after the county eliminated the position of recycling outreach coordinator in 2009.

Goebel-Canning said she has $55,563 in her budget to hire someone to fill that position next year.

“I think it’s critical that we get our numbers back up there,” she said. “I want to see our educational outreach efforts improved.”

The average Hernando County household generates about 30 pounds of recyclable material every month, county data shows.

Statewide, 38 percent of people recycled in 2013, according to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection report.

County commissioners are hoping a new automated pick-up service, called single-stream, will make it easier for people to recycle their discarded items.

Under single-stream, customers place all their recyclables in one container rather than separating plastics, newspapers, cans and other material into separate bins.

The recyclables then are taken to a center where the various materials are separated into appropriate bins.

The city of Brooksville already offers single-stream recycling. Goebel-Canning said the county must advertise for a contractor to provide the service; she hopes to do so by November.

“We really need to have someone in place come January,” she said.

County commissioners said recycling products would free space at county dumps.

County Commissioner Jim Adkins said he believes recycling numbers increase dramatically when single-stream is available because it makes participation so easy for people.

“Once that gets started, it will be 100 percent,” Adkins said.

In 2008, the Florida Legislature established a statewide recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020.

“As we get closer to the 2020 deadline ... we need all Florida residents to step up recycling efforts,” said Jorge Caspary, director of the state’s division of waste. “While we have made modest improvements again this year, it is still critical for the commercial sector to increase its recycling efforts before the goal can be achieved.”

Meanwhile, in the most recent report, these Nature Coast counties posted percentages higher than Hernando’s: Hillsborough (43 percent); Pasco (36 percent); Citrus (33 percent); Pinellas (31 percent).

mbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

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