By Tamas Mondovics

Area residents who have been recycling for decades or just started are now urged to make sure they are recycling correctly.

For the first time working together on a single recycling campaign, Hillsborough County has joined forces with Pinellas County, the City of Tampa, and the City of St. Petersburg and officially launched a regional effort designed teach Tampa Bay area residents about one particular, universal problem – plastic bags in recycling.

While, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties now recycle the same items they face the same challenge of contamination, that is attempting to recycle soiled items or materials our programs do not accept.  

To accomplish their goal of educating the public, county officials, are using a regional multimedia public education campaign featuring a new bay-spanning video and co-branded webpage, which they said will provide correct recycling information and encourage residents to keep recycling bag-free, no matter where they are in the Tampa Bay area.

Officials said that plastic bags and bagged recyclables aren’t recycled because they can’t be efficiently sorted by recycling equipment.

Plastic bags tangle in the sorting equipment, which causes equipment damage, creates health and safety hazards for workers, reduces the amount of recyclables that can be recovered, and increases the cost of the recycling process.

Therefore, all recyclables should be placed in recycling carts and municipal drop-off containers loosely, not bagged. In a recent press release, officials also emphasized that utilizing reusable bags is more eco-friendly than using disposable plastic bags when shopping. Of course, plastic bags can still be reused for other purposes around the house, recycled at participating retailers, or disposed of in garbage carts.

Currently, all four jurisdictions participating in the regional recycling effort use Waste-to-Energy facilities for trash disposal, turning garbage into renewable electricity.

Curbside and residential recycling systems are only designed to process certain items, including:

•Clean and empty plastic bottles and containers
•Clean and empty aluminum cans
•Clean and empty glass bottles and jars
•Dry paper, newspaper, and junk mail
•Clean and empty metal container
•Clean and empty milk and juice cartons
•Dry flattened cardboard
•Dry paperboard boxes (such as cereal boxes)

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