Does Gulfport recycle enough? Long story short: Gulfport’s doing great. We could do better. Here’s how.
How are we doing on recycling?
We had the lowest rate of contamination — just 3.5% — in Pinellas County in the most recent research from late 2020. The average countywide was 19.6%, with Clearwater at 26.1% and Indian Shores at 35.8%, according to Tom Nicholls, public works director.
How can we do even better?
By working to eliminate contaminants that don’t belong in curbside boxes, like plastic bags, glass, and dirty pizza boxes. Some people try to help by putting their cans in plastic bags, but the bags can tangle up processing machines. You can recycle bags at city hall, collection buckets in parks, or at many stores. When glass bottles are added to a load, they can shatter in the bin or when compacted in the the truck and contaminate other material. They also pose a hazard to
town employees. Glass bottles — as well as cardboard and mixed paper — can be recycled in dumpsters behind the Gulfport Neighborhood Center at 1617 49th St. S. Bottles and cans should be rinsed; cardboard and paper should be clean.
Why is the level of contamination so low?
“Because people take it seriously here,” says Kendrix Anderson, public works superintendent. Also, unlike other towns, our curbside collection involves using not one, but two separate bins — blue for steel and aluminum cans, and plastic containers, and green bins for newspapers, junk mail, magazines, and cardboard that fits into the bins. Accordingly, people seem to give more thought to recycling as they sort materials, and workers can more easily remove contaminants. Gulfport has a new-ish split-body truck, with one side dedicated to each color bin. This truck compacts loads, while the old one (it’s for sale, if you’re interested!) didn’t. On days when recycling is picked up, the day’s load averages 1.25 tons. Every few days, the truck goes to the processing plant in St. Petersburg.
Does Gulfport profit from recycling? Do all the loads really get recycled?
It hasn’t made a profit for the last several years. In fact, it pays $115 per ton for processing — double what it was five years ago. But if you’ve seen recycling going into the back of a dump truck, it’s because the lone split-body truck is out of commission. The load still gets recycled, and for Gulfport at least, that’s cheaper than landfilling or incineration.
How should people recycle lithium batteries?
Take them to the sanitation department’s office on 49th St. These batteries can cause fires that are hard to put out. Recently, one caused a fire in a Gulfport trash truck on route 275. The St. Petersburg fire department sent the truck to the Tropicana Field parking lot to unload. Trouble was, it was 4 p.m. and there was a game between the Rays and the Red Sox at 8. (They had it cleared by 6, and the Rays won.)