Recycling Guidelines in Palm Beach County
By Bryan Hayes
It is business as usual in Palm Beach County!
The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County (SWA) is collecting, sorting, and selling blue and yellow bin recyclables from Palm County residents through brokers and factories, that use the recyclables as raw materials.
What makes the SWA recycling program unique is the two-bin system with the yellow bin used for paper and cardboard and the blue bin used for plastic, glass and metal food containers smaller than two gallons. The benefit of the two-bin system is less contamination, which equates to a more desirable product for buyers.
Each year, the SWA processes more than 90,000 tons of blue and yellow bin recyclables.
By recycling, natural resources are able to be reclaimed that would otherwise be wasted. Recycling an aluminum can is much more efficient than creating a new can from bauxite ore. Recycling also diverts waste from the landfill. In Palm Beach County, most of the household waste is burned to generate electricity, and the ashes are landfilled. By recycling, we are extending the life of the landfill. Additionally, it’s good for the economy, because it provides revenue to Palm Beach County cities. When the SWA sells recyclables to recyclers, SWA is able to recover processing costs and then split the money with each city within the county.
The biggest issue for the SWA two-bin recycling system is plastic bags and plastic film wrappers. Plastic bags should never go into either of the blue or yellow recycling bins as they can do damage to the recycling equipment, which ultimately costs taxpayers. In 2014 alone, it is estimated that 14 million plastic bags and film went through the SWA’s recycling facility.
For proper recycling, please keep all bags including garbage bags, sandwich bags, and shipping bags out of the recycling bins. Other alternatives include reusing the bags or taking them back to the grocer so it may be recycled through their program.
The entire SWA recycling program hinges on Palm Beach County residents recycling correctly. Putting the wrong items into the recycling bins can cause havoc at the SWA’s recycling center. Not only is equipment damaged by plastic bags, but also cords, Christmas lights, and hoses. Also of note, greasy cardboard and food-stained paper plates contaminate clean paper both at the SWA’s facility as well as the pulp processor, making it harder to recycle. Chemical containers and batteries can also start fires in the facility.
While it may feel like doing the right thing, if there is doubt – throw it out! It does more damage than good putting non-recyclable items into either of the bins.
SWA also has more than 250 community cardboard dumpsters throughout Palm Beach County for residents to take their oversized cardboard to for recycling.
Be mindful to not only recycle, but also to recycle right. For more information, and details on what can – and just as importantly, what cannot be recycled, please visit: