Hundreds of thousands of Broward County residents will soon be required to stop recycling newspapers, pamphlets and other mixed paper.
Waste Management is ending mixed paper recycling, claiming that Broward has not been following the program’s guidelines.
The change includes newspapers, mail, magazines, glossy inserts, pamphlets, catalogs, print and office paper and school paper.
However, environmental groups want Waste Management to consider other options.
Fourteen Broward cities were recently told the change begins Aug. 1. They are: Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea; Lauderhill, Lighthouse Point, Margate, North Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Pembroke Park, Plantation, Tamarac, Wilton Manors.
According to the notice given to those municipalities, mixed paper “has no viable market” to be resold as recyclables.
Another 13 Broward cities are expected to be weaned off mixed-paper recycling, depending on new contract terms, according to Waste Management spokeswoman, Dawn McCormick.
Those are: Cooper City, Dania Beach, Davie, Hillsboro Beach, Lauderdale Lakes, Miramar, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Sea Ranch Lakes, Southwest Ranches, West Park, Weston.
Broward County Vice Mayor Steve Geller says: “We’ve known we’d be dealing with this in the next year or two. I don’t think we had any idea we’d be dealing with this in the next week or two.”
McCormick explains that Broward is putting trash in the recycling bin, causing contamination rates of around 30 percent. Unable to clean it enough to sell, the paper then gets sent to the landfill or burned to turn into electricity.
In addition, the global market demand for recycled paper is slowing.
The company’s recycling income dropped nearly $90 million last year, compared with 2017.
Waste Management is the country’s largest hauler and the largest recycling processing company, with recycling operations in 30 states and Canada. McCormick explains that other locations around the country have abandoned recycling entirely.
The agency handles recycling in Miami-Dade County, where mixed-paper recycling will continue since the contract does not allow for paper to be eliminated from recycling.
No cities in Palm Beach County plan to end paper recycling, says Solid Waste Authority spokesman, Willie Puz.
There, residents separate their paper for recycling from their glass, metal and plastic, cutting down on the contamination rates.
Although paper does not produce much revenue, it will not disappear. Puz explains, “As a government entity we’re not in it to make money; we’re in it to do the right thing.”
Once the changes are implemented, the financial burden could land on the individual cities, says Coral Springs Commissioner Larry Vignola.
If people continue to recycle paper, Waste Management could fine the cities for contaminating recycling.
“Hopefully the market will rebound in a few years, but this is going to be a challenge,” he adds. “It’s a shame. Everybody is a lot more environmentally conscious and striving to do the right thing by the environment. That’s very frustrating. We still have people putting plastic bags in the recycling bins. Not everyone really understands what’s recyclable and what’s not.”
Despite Waste Management’s notification letters, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steve Glassman hopes the change will not occur. He explains, “I’m hopeful we are able to figure this out. It makes no sense to fill up the landfills with this kind of material that can be recycled. I don’t know if there’s time to change anything now, but I think we need to have that conversation. I think we need to get it back on track.”
The list of what can still be recycled in Broward County generally includes clean, dry and empty cardboard such as Amazon shipping boxes and diaper boxes, plastic bottles and jugs, aluminum and steel cans, and glass bottles and jars. Clean pizza boxes with no grease, paper or food are also recyclable.