Capri resident concerned about bad recycling practices

Ann Hall

Isles of Capri resident wonders why some people can’t understand what you put in garbage and what goes in the trash.

“As I walk my dog on garbage days, I often see recycle bins with items that usually result in a load being rejected from the recycle process and, instead being taken to the land fill,” wrote Capri resident Paul Westberry to the isles informal email communication coconuttele. “Waste Management has reminded us in the past about their procedures, but some of us still don’t seem to get it.

“What I am specifically concerned about is that if the wrong items are tied up in lawn, kitchen, and or grocery bags and placed in the recycling can, it can contaminate the whole truck load for our neighborhood and cause all of it to be rejected,” said Westberry.

A review of the Collier County government recycling website gives credence to Westberry’s concerns and his suggestions to become more aware of what to and what not to discard in our yellow-topped recycling cans.

Residential curbside collection of recycling in Collier County was implemented in 1990 with the recycling truck driver sorted items placed in 18 gallon containers at the curb into two categories - paper and containers before loading them into a Dual Stream truck.

More space

In October 2005, Collier County implemented a Single Stream curbside recycling collection that provided a 64 gallon cart for residents. The cart gave the homeowner more space and provided a covered container with wheels. Single stream recycling removed the curb sorting and allowed for a totally automated collection.

This system works well when the appropriate materials are placed in the recycling cans. When they are not, the load can become contaminated, just as Westberry pointed out.

Recyclable materials collected in Collier County are taken to a materials recovery facility in Pembroke Pines, Fla., where they are dumped on a tipping floor and then placed on a conveyor belt. This transfers all of the material into an automated sorting system but does not allow for bagged recyclable materials.

Recyclable materials are considered contaminated if more than 10 percent of garbage/trash is mixed with recyclables. Collier County has developed a public educational outreach program to help teach our residents how to recycle properly.

Waste Management specifies the following as trash or garbage that should not be placed in recycling cans: food scraps, soiled paper products, paper towels and tissue, diapers, yard waste, Styrofoam packaging chips, food bags, aluminum foil, kitchenware, dishes, garden hose, plastic hangers, clothing electronics, wood or metal scraps.

“You may be like me where I was so avid about recycling that I tended to over recycle,” said Westberry.

“I was placing anything I felt that should be recyclable in a bag, and then tying the bag so the items would stay together and keep the can clean before I realized that I was contributing to the contamination of the whole neighborhood collection. I learned that recycling is a learning process,” Westberry said. “I want to share what I learned with others to help us help our environment.”

What is trash and what is garbage?

“It is as simple as trying a few simple basic rules,” said Westberry. “No. 1, no bagged items; No. 2, put in only allowable products.”

Contact Ann Hall at

Trash or garbage?

The Collier County government website has a host of information about recycling. Their Recycling FAQ is a great place to learn. The following information taken from this site provides a few specifics as a review for some and an introduction to others who have just begun to recycle.

Is residential recycling mandatory in Collier County?

No. Residential recycling is not mandatory. The cost of recycling services is included in the annual solid waste assessment included on the non-ad valorem portion of your property tax bill. So, although residential recycling is not mandatory, you do pay for the service. Recycling is mandatory for businesses, multi-family complexes, temporary events and venue facilities in Collier County.

What items can I put into my residential curbside recycling (yellow top) container?

All paper products, including newspapers, paper bags, office paper, junk mail, phone books, catalogs, magazines, cereal/food boxes, juice/milk cartons, and cardboard (flattened to fit).All plastics labeled # 1 through # 7; glass bottles/jars, and cans made of steel, tin, or aluminum. You may also include plastic grocery bags, shredded paper, and egg cartons marked with the chasing arrows recycling symbol.

How should I prepare my recyclables for residential curbside collection?

Remove food and residue from all recyclable items. Place all recyclables loose into your single-stream recycling (yellow-top) cart. Do not bag recyclables as you do trash. Place rollout carts within three feet of the curb, and at least four feet from mailboxes, utility poles, or other obstacles.

What can I do with Styrofoam packing peanuts?

Please do not place Styrofoam, Styrofoam packing peanuts, or bubble wrap in your recycling cart. Packing peanuts and clean bubble wrap can be reused. Most privately owned shipping, mailing and packaging businesses will accept them for reuse

How do I recycle if I live in a condominium or multi-family complex that has commercial service?

Condominium and multi-family complexes - those with dumpster service as opposed to curbside service - should have single-stream recycling roll-out carts or yellow top dumpster(s) for recycling. These containers are usually found in the solid waste disposal area, or in an area set aside for recycling. Contact the complex property manager for information. If there are no recycling carts/containers at your complex, please contact a Collier County recycling coordinator at (239) 252-2508.

Where can I find additional information about recycling?

If you have questions about recycling, please call 239-252-2508 for more information.