By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County officials were pleased to announce a recent recognition, which would not have been possible was it not for the vigilance on the part of area residents and community-minded neighborhoods.

According to the recently released report by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, communities of Hillsborough County have earned the highest overall recycling rate in the state.

County officials said that Hillsborough County, inclusive of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, had a combined total recycling rate of 73 percent in 2013 when incorporating renewable energy credits from waste-to-energy production. The total rate includes both public and private sector recycling activities.

In 2013 Hillsborough County collected 7.74 lbs. of trash per day per person.             

The county also collected 1.8 million tons of solid waste, while 775,000 tons of solid waste was directly recycled.

The county also generated 547,000 megawatts of renewable energy from waste, while it recycled 154,000 tons of yard waste.

Hillsborough County government and the city of Tampa both utilize waste-to-energy facilities as a primary solid waste disposal method, creating renewable energy and reducing the volume of waste sent to landfills, officials said.

The renewable energy credits are calculated based on the amount of renewable energy produced using solid waste as fuel, which largely influenced the county’s overall recycling rate.

“Earning the top recycling rate in Florida for 2013 is important for Hillsborough County because it helps validate our commitment to waste diversion and renewable energy, which began in the early 1980s with the Falkenburg Waste to Energy Facility,” said County Solid Waste Division Director for Public Works, Kim Byer. “With our customers help, we have nearly reached the statewide recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020.”

What does all this mean to County residents?

“In addition to the environmentally responsible reduction in raw material use and landfill volume that comes with increased recycling, County residents directly benefit from our sustainable waste-to-energy process because we use the electricity generated internally to power public utilities facilities and we sell it externally to electric utility operations,” Byer said.

In short, trash disposed properly means a cleaner environment and more energy. Winning top rating in the state is also a pretty good feeling.

The full Florida Department of Environmental Protection report is available at gories/recycling/SWreportdata/ 13_data.htm.

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