The Calusa Garden Club met recently to discuss the “Do’s and Don’ts of Recycling” in Collier County. Margie Hapke, Collier County recycling coordinator, led the presentation, offering her knowledge and advice on all things garbage. Hapke has been with the Department of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management since 2002. Part of her job as recycling coordinator is educational outreach. It’s her goal to not only inform the public on the importance of recycling but also on how to recycle properly.
Hapke began the presentation by discussing Collier County’s landfill. Collier County owns it’s own landfill, which is great. By having access to our own waste disposal system the county is able to reduce costs for residents. Each year residents pay around $190 for waste management; this includes trash and recycling collection, as well as yard waste. In other counties in Florida, residents can pay up to $900 a year for a similar service.
While having our own landfill does have its economic benefits, landfills don’t have a very long lifespan. Hapke predicts that by 2070 the Collier County Landfill will be full. While this may not happen in our lifetime, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry about it. In order to slow down the filling process Hapke stressed the importance of recycling.
The rules of recycling vary throughout the United States. Each county has it’s own set of rules and abilities when it comes to sorting trash. This is especially important to note for the snowbirds who divide their time between Collier County and other northern states. Some counties, for instance, are able to recycle Styrofoam, Collier County, however, does not have that capability. Another common mistake people make when trying to recycle is placing the recyclable items in plastic trash bags. Unless the bag is completely see-through (i.e. clear), the contents cannot be recycled. You can dump your recyclables directly into the bin.
While having our own landfill does have its economic benefits, landfills don’t have a very long lifespan. Hapke predicts that by 2070 the Collier County Landfill will be full. While this may not happen in our lifetime, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry about it.
If you are unsure if something is recyclable, there’s an easy way to check. Plastic containers and bottles usually bear a triangular recycling symbol on them. Under the symbol is a number. If the number is between 1-7 it can be recycled in Collier County.
Hapke also discussed how to dispose of plastic shopping bags. Instead of throwing them away you can give them back to the store from which they came. Publix, for example, has an outdoor bag-recycling bin right by the entrance that allows customers an easy and convenient way to drop off their old bags.
And when it comes to the disposal of prescription medication, the police station has a drop off box. Just make sure that the pills are clearly labeled. You can block out your name/identifying information with a black marker. Whatever you do, don’t flush pills down the toilet or drain as they can infiltrate our water system.
Finally it’s important to remember that all recyclable items should be cleaned and absent of any food residue. Pizza boxes, though cardboard, usually cannot be recycled due to their inevitable grease residue.
Check out the charts here provided by the Collier County Public Utilities Department. For more information visit CollierGov.net/Recycles or call 239-252-7575.