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Counterbalance Throwaway Living: New Drop-Off Locations For Plastic Bags & Films

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So, imagine trying to go one day without using plastic.

(background sound of landfill up and under)

RO: It’s almost impossible. I mean your toothbrush is plastic.

That’s Rebecca Olson with St. Lucie County.

RO:  I am the Solid Waste marketing and quality control coordinator here at the landfill.

St. Lucie along with Indian River and Palm Beach are the counties in our listening area participating in a new pilot program to recycle plastic films and bags.

RO: I found this old advertisement. It had to be from the 50s.

The ad features a young family standing under a confetti-like cascade of single-use plastic plates, forks, cups, tablecloths… It reads: “Throwaway Living – disposable items cut down household chores! The objects flying through the air in this picture would take 40 hours to clean, except that no housewife need bother. They are all meant to be thrown away after use.”

RO: And here we are today trying to get rid of it all and it’s never going away.

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Working with W.R.A.P. which stands for Wrap Recycling Action Program, St. Lucie County has four new locations specifically to drop plastic bags and…

RO: Plastic wraps and films. The idea is not to detract from grocery store drop-offs. Those programs – where you can drop plastic shopping bags in bins near the store entrances - are separate and will continue.

It’s to provide additional locations just for the convenience of residents.

You can drop your plastic shopping bags, bread bags, bubble wrap, clear product wrap such as the wrapping around paper towels or paper plates, dry cleaning wraps, produce bags, drink case wraps, pallet and stretch wraps, and newspaper bags.  These should never go in your blue household curbside carts.

RO: When you do put them in the carts, they bind up our machines. And that causes a lot of unnecessary down time.

Most plastic bags ultimately end up in the landfill anyway, and the ones that get by, just contaminate the rest of the recyclables.

RO: And since they are loose garbage they tend to blow around and that’s how the majority of plastic bags end up in the ocean and your environment.

We take a ride around the landfill facilities. There are several large warehouses filled with mountains of various materials, and people are hard at work on giant bulldozing machines collecting it, and smashing it into large colorful cubes. The garbage cubes go to the landfill, and the recyclable cubes are sold.

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Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
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Olson with some of the colorful cubes.

TOC: Woo - it stinks! The birds don’t care.

RO: No, they don’t seem to mind.

There are literally hundreds of birds, mostly Ibis and Vultures. They come to dine on the….

RO: …almost 600 tons per day of garbage.

That’s a shocking amount of trash!

RO: I know!

TOC: In one county!

RO: Yes! What we would like to do is increase the recycling rate which would then lower the garbage rate. The more you can recycle the less trash that goes into the landfill. Here at our facility we process between 150 and 200 tons of recyclables per day. With the recycled bags and wraps, mostly it gets made into pellet. Little plastic pellets that can be used for a number of things like plastic lumber and more plastic bags.

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Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
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The birds find the garbage irresistible.

St. Lucie County’s pilot locations are, in Fort Pierce, the St. Lucie County Solid Waste Baling and Recycling Facility and FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s Discover Center; and in Port St Lucie, the Port St. Lucie Community Center and Morningside Branch Library.

RO: Many people put things in their curbside carts and it’s not their problem anymore after it’s gone, and they have thrown it away – and it’s important for people to understand that “this” is away. This is where the stuff goes. Nothing ever goes away, really.

For more information about the W.R.A.P. campaign visit: https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org. For more details about St. Lucie County’s recycling efforts visit: www.stluciecountyrecycles.com.