Hillsborough County offers tips for after-holiday recycling.

By Lily Belcher

As the holiday season comes to a close following the new year, families are tasked with taking down decorations and disposing of old decorations and containers. During the annual holiday cleanup, Hillsborough County wants to encourage families to pay close attention to what they throw in their recycling bins and to confirm those items are, in fact, recyclable. Each area’s recycling program does have its own specific list of items they can or cannot accept that varies from the traditional list, so the best way to determine if something is recyclable is to check with that specific area.

“Around this time of year, there is traditionally a lot more consumption. People are having holiday gatherings and [are] buying gifts. So, we just want to make sure people are understanding what they can recycle correctly,” said Hillsborough County’s recycling coordinator, Travis Barnes.

One of the biggest culprits during the holiday season are string lights. Along with similar items, string lights are referred to as ‘tanglers’ because they get caught around the machines, stopping the recycling process. To untangle these items, employees are forced to solve the problem by hand, which can be time consuming and dangerous for the workers.

Other items on Hillsborough County’s naughty list include plastic shopping bags and plasticware, including plastic party cups. While most wrapping papers are recyclable, ones with metallic sheens or a lot of glitter cannot be reused.

“When in doubt, leave it out,” said Barnes. “If you are not certain it is recyclable, it’s probably better to err on the side of throwing it in the garbage as opposed to recycling.”

Barnes conceded that it may seem counterintuitive for people to throw something that they think may be recyclable into the garbage, but he [assured] that what is thrown in the garbage is still used at the energy plants.

The curbside recycling program is only designed to accept a certain subset of items due to the nature of the plants. However, any recycling goes a long way in helping the environment, and Barnes encourages recyclers not to become discouraged by the list of items they cannot accept.

For more information on what can be recycled, visit hcflgov.net/recycling.

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