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Report Discusses Florida’s Recycling Goals for 2020

Floridians should bolster efforts to reach a statewide recycling goal of 75 percent within 10 years, the state’s top environmental regulator proposes in a letter to lawmakers.

Responding to a request from the Legislature, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole outlined a series of steps to boost the state’s current recycling rate of 28 percent to what would become the highest in the nation by 2020.

"It will be a challenge to achieve, but it can be reached through partnerships among state government, local governments, trade organizations, schools, businesses and industries as well as the people of Florida,." Sole wrote in a letter to lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist.

Florida generates more than 32 million tons of municipal solid waste per year, a little less than two tons per person. Despite a 1988 law requiring 30 percent recycling, the state’s level has remained mostly stagnant since the late 1990s, when initial efforts hit a plateau.

Atop a list of recommendations, the agency is calling on lawmakers to phase in a mandatory recycling program for the state’s commercial generators, which account for more than two-thirds of the municipal waste stream and are now recycling at a 30 percent rate.

“Even if the residential sector were to recycle everything, every day, the new recycling goal could not be achieved without substantially increasing recycling from the commercial sector,” the report concludes. .

Potential funding sources include increasing the waste tire fee, raising tipping fees at landfills or requiring a deposit on beverage containers, a “bottle-bill” now in place in nearly a dozen U.S. States.

Any commercial recycling effort would need the support of the business, which has historically been wary of the private costs associated with recycling efforts.

Among the top recommendations:

- Increase recycling of food wastes and other organic material, which now comprise 40 percent of solid waste stream. Composting, food to fuel programs and other efforts are needed.

- Increased recycling of construction and demolition debris, which now makes up 25 percent of the solid waste stream.

-Require all state agencies to reach a 75 percent recycling goal.

-Provide incentives for school districts to recycle food and other organic wastes.

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