January has been a big month for recycling in Sarasota County, primarily with the switch to a single-stream collection system across unincorporated areas of the county (that is, not in city limits).
Single-stream recycling is a method of collecting recyclable materials using just one container, and residents received a new single-stream recycling cart that replaces the blue and red dual-stream bins. With the new cart, paper and plastic recyclables no longer need to be segregated into individual bins, but are simply comingled in the cart for pickup.
There are several reasons for the change.
First, the processor, who receives all the recyclable material, wants the material this way. It’s part of a long-running trend. In the last decade, we have seen a shift nationally from dual-stream collection to the single-stream methods. In 1990, only 30 percent of the processors collected using single-stream methods. By 2010, the number had more than doubled, with 65 percent of processors using single-stream collection. And the trend continued, with more than 70 perent of systems using single-stream collection today.
The second reason is simple volume. Studies by the University of Wisconsin have shown that 5-10 times more recyclable material is collected using single-stream methods. In large population areas, like Sarasota County, this translates into vastly higher recycling amounts.
And, finally, haulers note that single-stream collection is more cost-effective. No longer do drivers need to get out of their trucks to dump bins; instead, a robotic arm grabs and dumps the carts. This is faster (and safer) for the hauling companies.
There are some downsides to the new single-stream collection, chief among these being contamination. While more material is collected, the contamination rates also increase. By comparison, dual-stream collection typically contains 3-10 percent contamination, while single-stream contamination runs 15-27 percent.
So, locally, what is happening to all of the old red and blue bins? Residents have a few options on what to do with these now-relics.
- Residents can keep the bins and use them as they wish.
- Residents living in unincorporated Sarasota County may drop off the old red and blue recycling bins at several locations through Jan. 31 (view the attached flier).
Ultimately, Waste Management will recycle many of the collected bins. The bins are made from #2 plastics, which is the most desired material for use in recycled products.
Other bins will be used in a number of creative projects around the county. Schools plan to use some in classrooms to collect recyclables, helping to increase participation rates. And, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County will use some bins for planters and worm composting bins. We encourage you to be creative.
Learn more about recycling at one of our “Recycle Right!” classes.