“Monroe County is proud to announce a total recycling rate of 26 percent for calendar year 2011.” That announcement by the county’s Public Works director, is not cause for celebration. The county continues to lag behind the rest of the state when it comes to recycling.
Alachua County, home to the University of Florida, manages a 50 percent recycling rate in the latest figures reported by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Collier County scored 40 percent on the latest recycling report. Statewide, Florida expects to reach a recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020. That means Keys residences and businesses will have to triple current levels of recycling to make that goal.
Kevin Wilson, Monroe’s Public Works director, properly points out that even though Monroe has made small gains, the real improvement needs to come from businesses.
Only 23 percent of commercial businesses in the Keys participate in scheduled recycling collection programs, according to the DEP. In Broward County, by contrast, that figure stands at 100 percent.
Here in the Keys, where the number of empty beer cans and glass bottles per capita ranks among the highest in Florida, Monroe’s recycling performance lags far behind.
Aluminum cans, with a ready market and actual profits for recycling, are a good indicator of how well we’re doing. In the Keys, aluminum cans recycled went from 5 percent in 2007 to 8 percent in 2011, the latest statewide figures released by DEP. That’s pitiful.
We did better on plastic bottles, with recycling rates climbing from 14 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2011. Glass, which should be a no-brainer, dropped from 10 percent recycled in 2007 to 3 percent in 2011. Unacceptable.
Clearly, for Monroe County to improve on recycling, bars and restaurants that account for so much of the cans and bottles consumed here need to be engaged.
That’s the same message from the state: “Statewide, Florida has maintained a 30 percent recycling rate for a second consecutive year,” said Jorge Caspary, director of DEP’s Division of Waste Management. “However, Florida businesses must become more involved in recycling in order for us to achieve success.”
There’s the challenge, Keys businesses. Are you going to be part of the solution or remain part of the problem?