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Alachua County recognized for highest 2011 recycling rate in the state

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Alachua County had the highest recycling rate in the state in 2011 for the second straight year, a recent report says.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the county’s recycling rate was about 50 percent in 2011. The rate is defined as the quantity of solid waste that is recycled instead of being stored at a landfill.

Alachua County Waste Alternatives Manager Partick Irby said much of the county’s success is due to the mandatory commercial recycling ordinance implemented in 2001. The ordinance requires all commercial generators to separate designated recycling materials and make them available for recycling.

“With the two larger entities within the county having that ordinance, that helps out,” Irby said. “We also have a very robust curbside recycling program.”

Residents participating in the program place bottles and cans in blue bins and paper and cardboard in orange bins. Materials picked up from the curb are then brought to SP Fiber Technologies and sorted into containers and fibers.

Alachua County collected 410,380 tons of municipal solid waste and recycled 205,070 tons, according to the Solid Waste Management in Florida 2011 Annual Report. The state collected 26,486,286 tons of municipal solid waster and recycled just 30 percent.

The Florida Legislature hopes to attain a 75 percent statewide recycling rate by 2020. The Department of Environmental Protection submitted a comprehensive program plan in 2010 to achieve this goal.

According to the plan, recycling will be enhanced “in an economically responsible way through heightened public awareness, state leadership, development and expansion of recycling markets, and more investments throughout the local government and commercial sectors.”

“We are still a long way away from our goal,” Irby said, “so every little bit counts.”

Alachua County’s recycling rate is five percentage points higher than neighboring Marion County.  The 2012 numbers will be revealed in the next couple of months.

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