Residents upset over new recycling program in Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County has two new trash haulers and is moving towards a new recycling program.

The new program limits what people can actually recycle, including:

  • Newspapers, paper or paper products
  • Aluminum cans
  • Steel or tin cans
  • Cardboard, cereal boxes
  • Most gallon and half gallon, opaque/ translucent plastics, milk, juice jugs

The county is no longer accepting colored plastics like detergent and soda bottles, water bottles, and no glass. The move is garnering some backlash.

“I feel like what’s the point? It’s ironic because they’re giving these huge new recycling containers, but there’s nothing to put in it,” resident Rachelle Stephenson said.

Because of the new limitations, Stephenson turned down a new recycling cart.

“A majority of what we recycle is plastic and glass, so now there’s pretty much no point in even recycling,” she said.

“This just seems to be like a backward step,” Joshua Watson told News Channel 8. “There’s kind of a guilt factor that goes into it every time you throw away a single use bottle or the detergent containers. It used to be that we kept very little actual garbage. Most of it went to recycling and we were pretty active about it. Now every time you throw something away, it eats at you a little bit.”

News Channel 8 reached out to Polk County officials. Communications Specialist Lauren Lengyel emailed that they are limiting their collection to products that have the longest environmental and economic value.

We asked what would happen if residents continue to recycle products that are no longer accepted.

“The County has the ability to audit routes and identify where contamination is coming from…from area, to the route, to the truck, and what part of the load,” Lengyel said. “Waste & Recycling will have the opportunity to talk with those specific residents with contaminated carts about their recycling habits. If the behavior persists, then their recyclable material roll cart could be removed.”

“They are saying it’s because it’s no longer a demand for those products. That’s not really why we recycle, just because the resell price of the recycled materials,” Watson said.

Watson and other residents wonder what price the new program will have on the environment.

“I’m just really saddened by the whole thing. I don’t understand why we can’t do a better job of reusing our resources. It is possible. And what is going to be the cost of not recycling?” Stephenson said.

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