How to recycle properly in Alachua County with zero waste goals
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How to recycle properly in Alachua County with zero waste goals

Jul 21, 2023

Reaching Alachua County’s zero waste goal involves a lot of steps − and requires effort from locals.

A "zero waste" city usually is defined as having 90% landfill diversion, said Jeff Klugh, the waste collections and alternatives assistant manager for Alachua County. Reaching the goal is a long-term path that includes steps from creating a commercial compositing operation to educating the public on waste reduction efforts, he said.

Knowing what you can and can’t recycle is one of those steps so that the materials don't end up being trashed.

Here are some tips and tricks from the county on how to recycle properly:

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There are two types of recycling bins in Alachua County - blue bins and orange bins. Blue bins are for plastic, metal and glass, while orange bins are for paper recyclables.

Generally, it’s not too bad if you mix up the bins as long as you keep the materials separated, Klugh said.

Households can recycle metals, plastics and glass in blue bins.

Metal and plastic food containers should be rinsed before recycling, Klugh said. Lids should also be removed.

Despite popular belief, Alachua County doesn't recycle plastic bags, lids, food trays, black plastic, clamshell containers, plastic and takeout cups, takeout containers, petroleum products, styrofoam or egg cartons.

The no-recycle list also includes compostable, biodegradable or degradable containers known as “bio-plastics.”

While many different materials can technically be recycled, Klugh said what is allowed to be recycled is based on whether the materials can be sold.

“Recycling is totally based on marketability and the general recycling commodities market. So basically, those items don't have any value. Nobody wants to buy them as a recyclable material,” Klugh said. “There's just not a market for the types of things that we list that we don't accept.”

The rules for orange bins are a bit simpler as long as you remember it is for paper products.

Households can recycle brown paper bags, magazines, cardboard, office paper, paperback books and shredded paper in orange bins.

Cardboard boxes must be flattened down before being recycled, and should not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet. Shredded paper must be contained in a rolled-down brown paper bag, according to the county’s website.

The county recommends placing a blue bin on top of the orange bin to prevent paper from littering the streets.

There are a few common mistakes people make when recycling.

Klugh said most people see the “chasing arrows” symbol on something and assume they can just toss it in the bin. Many items that have the symbol aren’t accepted, he said. Instead, residents should check the county’s website to confirm something can be recycled.

He also advised against tying your recyclables up in a plastic bag. The bags can mess up machinery quite a bit, Klugh said. The bags may get tangled up and cause the facility to shut down the machinery to get it out of the gears, and it can cause recycled materials to be thrown away.

It’s also important to avoid recycling materials with food residue, Klugh said. People should remember to rinse off food, he said, and pizza boxes with lots of cheese and grease stuck to them should be thrown away.

“You don't want to put that in your recycling bin,” he said.