After Pushback From City and County Officials, Waste Management Will Continue To Accept Mixed Paper For Recycling
BY MARIE PULEO | LIGHTHOUSE POINT NEWS REPORTER
In response to opposition from city and county officials, as well as residents, Waste Management has reversed its decision to stop accepting mixed paper for recycling in certain Broward cities that it serves.
In January, Waste Management sent a letter to 14 cities in Broward County, including Lighthouse Point and Deerfield Beach, notifying them that there was no viable market for mixed paper. Effective Aug. 1, mixed paper was to be counted as contamination, subject to a fee of $55 per ton.
Mixed paper includes newspaper, mail, magazines, glossy inserts, pamphlets, catalogs, office paper and school paper.
According to Dawn McCormick, a spokesperson for Waste Management, the original decision to stop accepting mixed paper was due to excessive contamination rates in residential recycling material.
“The incoming material is, on average, 34% contaminated throughout Broward County,” said McCormick. “When it’s that contaminated, we simply can’t produce a bale of mixed paper that’s clean enough to find a viable market.”
Earlier this year, Waste Management was unable to market more than 400 bales of mixed paper (each weighing over a ton) at the Reuter Recycling Center in Pembroke Pines.
Last week, Waste Management sent a new letter to the affected cities saying, “We have heard from Broward County officials and several of our municipal customers who have asked if it would be possible to continue recycling mixed paper even in these challenging markets. We certainly want to work with you to honor that request.”
The letter also said that Waste Management will continue to monitor market conditions and contamination rates in the future regarding mixed paper.
One of the cities that reached out to Waste Management was Lighthouse Point.
Lighthouse Point Mayor Glenn Troast also reached out to mayors in other cities, as well as Broward County Commissioner Lamar Fisher.
The other cities that received the letters from Waste Management are Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Lauderhill, Margate, North Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Pembroke Park, Plantation, Tamarac and Wilton Manors.
“It became a concerted effort on the part of different cities to persuade Waste Management that this was a bad decision,” said Troast. “Every now and again, the good guys win one.”
The 13 other cities in Broward County that Waste Management serves are Cooper City, Dania Beach, Davie, Hillsboro Beach, Lauderdale Lakes, Miramar, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Sea Ranch Lakes, Southwest Ranches, West Park and Weston.
While those cities did not receive letters, there was expectation among some mayors that Waste Management was going to stop their mixed paper recycling at some point as well.
“We had not discussed that as of now,” said McCormick. “We had 14 cities whose contracts allowed us to give them notice, and we did. We were not looking at the other contracts at this time.”
“We’ll continue to do our best to recycle mixed paper for all of our customers,” McCormick added, “but they play a role in helping us find markets by sending us clean material.”
The key is to simplify and focus on getting more of the most marketable materials, such as plastic bottles and jugs, cans, paper and cardboard, said McCormick. And when in doubt, throw it out.
Paperboard is considered mixed paper, and will continue to be accepted. Paperboard includes items such as cereal boxes, tissue boxes and pasta boxes. Items that have a waxed coating, such as milk cartons, are not accepted, said McCormick.
Other items that should not be placed in the recycling bin include plastic bags, food, soiled pizza boxes, garden hoses, plastic toys, diapers and clothing. Recyclables should not be put in plastic bags.
People often place non-recyclable items in their recycling bin “thinking they’re being virtuous, but instead it becomes an environmental burden,” said McCormick.
If Waste Management can’t sell the mixed paper it receives from residential recycling, the first option will be to take it to a waste-to-energy facility – either the Wheelabrator South Broward in Davie or the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority facility. The second option will be to take it to a landfill somewhere in Florida.
“I’m very happy that Waste Management changed their mind and their position on this very important issue, and we look forward to working with them to develop a recycling program that works for everybody,” said Troast.