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Florida Counties Increase Recycling, Move Closer to 75 Percent by 2020 Goal

July 3, 2014 - 6:00pm

New 2013 recycling data released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Thursday shows Florida's official recycling rate is now 49 percent, up 1 percent from last year. It represents a substantial increase in the amount of solid waste recycled -- from 9.7 million tons in 2012 to 11.8 million tons in 2013.

According to a DEP statement, the total recycling rate represents a combination of traditional recycling practices and renewable energy credits, which are calculated based on the amount of renewable energy produced using solid waste as a fuel.

Florida Statutes states that each megawatt-hour of electricity produced by waste equals one ton of recycling. For 2013, there were 3.4 million megawatt-hours of electricity produced from both waste-to-energy facilities and the use of landfill gas. Florida law pertaining to the recycling rate was amended by the Legislature in 2012 to promote the production of renewable energy from solid waste.

DEP claims it's important to recognize gains in the traditional recycling rate, which does not include renewable energy credits. The traditional recycling rate increased by 3 percent from 35 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2013.

The overall amount of solid waste generated increased from 27.9 million tons in 2012 to 31.3 million tons in 2013. A large portion of this increase came from construction and demolition waste. This increase is consistent with the overall increase in economic activity in the state.

As we get closer to the 2020 deadline for the 75 percent recycling goal, we need all Florida residents to step up recycling efforts, said Division of Waste Management Director Jorge Caspary. 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.

In 2008, the Florida Legislature first established a new statewide recycling goal of 75 percent to be achieved by 2020. While the department is urging all sectors to actively increase recycling efforts, commercial municipal solid waste accounts for approximately 55 percent of the total municipal solid waste in Florida. However, only about half of the commercial solid waste in Florida is being recycled. Increasing commercial recycling would have a substantial positive effect on the recycling numbers as a whole.

DEP continues to promote its Recycling Recognition Program and is working to raise awareness and interest, particularly for commercial recycling efforts throughout Florida. The department claims it is crucial that businesses, schools and other commercial recyclers increase their recycling efforts. The department has a tool available for companies to input data and track their recycling efforts -- the Florida DEP Business Recycling Tracking Tool.

According to the 2013 report for total recycling rates, including renewable energy credits, Hillsborough and Lee counties have the top two total recycling rates at 73 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Sarasota County tops the rankings for the traditional recycling rates in 2013.

Top 10 Counties for Total Recycling Rates:

1. Hillsborough, 73 percent.
2. Lee, 70 percent.
3. Hendry, 68 percent.
4. Pasco, 67 percent.
5. Pinellas, 63 percent.
6. Collier, 60 percent.
7. Sarasota, 58 percent.
8. Martin, Palm Beach, 56 percent (tie).
10. Monroe, 55 percent.

Top 10 Counties for Traditional Recycling Rates:

1. Sarasota, 58 percent.
2. Alachua, Martin, Collier, 54 percent (three-way tie).
5. Brevard, 52 percent.
6. Manatee, 48 percent.
7. Orange, 47 percent.
8. Lee, 46 percent.
9. Duval, Leon, 45 percent (tie).

To view the complete 2013 Municipal Solid Waste Annual Report, click here.

For more information on the department's Recycling Recognition Program, click here.

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