GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Recyclable materials are piling up in Clay County. The county announced July 20 it temporarily would be suspending curbside recycling collection. The good news is, the suspension is expected to be lifted on Friday.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to do damage, this time in the environmental sector. With the now rescinded stay-at-home order, the total volume of residential waste (garbage, recycling and yard trash) has increased. More people are ordering food, packages and going through more groceries. This has led to more waste.
And it’s not limited to just cardboard, plastic and glass.
The county also recycles computers, appliances, paperback books and food beverage cartons.
“We recycle as much as possible,” said Milton Towns, Clay County Environmental Services Director.
Old washers, dryers, refrigerators and stoves have metal that can be salvaged. Computers, car batteries, tires and televisions also have value.
While larger items can’t be left curbside, they can be dropped off at the Rosemary Hill Solid Waste Management Facility in Green Cove Springs, or at any of the four Environment Convenience Centers at Clay Hill, Doctors Inlet in Middleburg, Keystone Heights and Long Bay in Middleburg.
Towns said the county is set to resume curbside services to reduce the number of customary recyclables.
“One of the effects of the COVID-19, and the stay-at-home orders in here in Florida, locally, has been an increase in volumes of waste from our residential households,” Towns said. “That’s due in large [to] we’re changing our activities and our buying habits. For many families, increased take out deliveries, online ordering. When people weren’t working and schoolchildren at home, they are generating waste at their home that might have been generated and disposed of at a business or at school.
“We’ve seen an increase year over year between March 13 and June 30 of this year of more than 5,320 tons collected from our residential households, and that represents a 17% increase in our volume.”
The increase in volume put more pressure on drivers and routes and led to more trucks being put into the rotation. Enter COVID-19 again. Health and safety directives from the state and federal governments reduced the number of necessary drivers in the fleet. Between someone contracting the virus, or contact tracing, in most cases, actual or possible COVID-19 interaction leads to a two-week quarantine.
“Due to the increased volumes and recommended protocols with staff members, they [Advanced Disposal] were without a significant portion of their drivers awaiting clearance,” said Towns. “So, we made the decision with the hauler when it became apparent that they could not provide adequate service, to temporarily suspend recycling in order to concentrate on garbage collection.”
Clay County residents pay $226 annually for their environmental services, which includes curbside garbage, recycling, yard trash, bulky waste, and waste disposal. It also includes the ability to drop-off at five different locations in the county. (Those locations can be found on claycountygov.com under the Environmental Services department). The drop-off centers allow for 500 pounds weekly and four tires monthly at no charge to the resident.
The prospective return to recycling pickup is Monday, August 3. While Towns anticipates that there will likely be a surplus of recyclables to pick up, he does not expect any change in the typically scheduled day that residents will put their bins on the curb.
“It’s our intention to recover from the suspension in a very short time,” he said. “Hopefully, within that first week or so, we should be back to normal.”