Waste Reduction

Overview

Reducing waste is a part of Clearwater Greenprint, the city's sustainability plan

greenprint, sustainability, resiliency, beach, water

Why Waste Reduction is Important

Clearwater’s garbage is collected, transported, then processed at the Pinellas County Waste-to-Energy Facility in St. Petersburg, Florida. While the waste-to-energy process reduces the amount of solid waste deposited in landfills and generates electricity, it also produces greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of plastics, tires, and other carbon-based waste materials. 90% of the garbage created in the county is burned through waste-to-energy while 10% is landfilled. The landfilling of material also creates methane, a harmful GHG when produced in excess.

In 2018, Clearwater residents and businesses generated 6.6 million tons of garbage and recycled 9.6 thousand tons of plastic containers, glass bottles, metal cans, mixed paper, and newspaper. Additionally, 3.7 thousand tons of yard waste was collected and repurposed.

Both businesses and consumers can have a large impact on waste reduction. Business can make products using less toxins and packaging while increasing their use of packaging that is recyclable or compostable. Consumers can better manage their waste by reusing items, recycling properly, composting, and correctly disposing of electronics and other hazardous waste.

We should all do our best to avoid products that generate large amounts of waste and choose to reuse items rather than placing them in the trash. Further sustainable practices include composting at home, recycling properly, and buying products that are made of material that was previously recycled.

Waste Reduction Strategies Overview

Yard Waste Collection

  • Continue to offer yard waste collection to residents, encourage more households to participate, and investigate opportunities for collection of other organic waste such as food waste for composting.

Recycling Program Expansion

  • Continue to offer recycling services to residents and businesses.

Backyard Composting Program

  • Continue the virtual Clearwater Creates Compost course and complete an annual compost bin giveaway day.

Commercial Composting

  • Develop a pilot composting program to divert food scraps from landfills and demonstrate the viability of a city-wide program.

Trash to Trends Event

  • Organize an annual community event for swapping reusable goods to divert reusable goods from the solid waste stream.

Municipal Waste Reduction Policy

  • Adopt formal waste reduction policy and goals that address ocean-friendly recycling and printing practices.
  • Consider development of standards for events held on municipal sites to reduce waste generation, consumption of single-use plastics, and increase recycling by thousands.

Strategy 1: Yard Waste Collection

  • Continue to offer yard waste collection to residents, encourage more households to participate, and investigate opportunities for collection of other organic waste such as food waste for composting.

In 2010, the city started a residential yard waste program to divert yard waste (i.e. leaves, grass clippings, branches) away from the county waste-to-energy facility and landfill. Instead, the yard debris material was collected and sent to a company that repurposes it into mulch or fuel. The program has reduced operating hours and solid waste disposal fees paid by the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling department. The city will continue to offer yard waste collection to residents, encourage more households to participate, and investigate opportunities for collection of other organic waste such as food waste for composting.

Strategy 2: Recycling Program Continuation

  • Continue to offer recycling services to residents and businesses.

The city expanded previous recycling options to include more types of plastic as well as glass. It also launched a single-stream recycling program in 2013 to make recycling more convenient and provided 90-gallon barrels to every single-family home. In the fiscal year that extended from 2016 to 2017, almost 14 thousand tons of material was recycled as opposed to the 6,000 tons in 2009.

In January of 2018, China, which traditionally was the largest importer of the world's recycling - receiving over 30% of all global material, announced that it would not accept any recycling that contained more than 0.05% contamination. In regard to recycling, contamination is anything that is not recyclable – this includes plastic bags, food waste, containers with liquid, Styrofoam, fabric, hoses, wood, paint, scrap metal, etc.

An audit of Clearwater's recycling stream was also conducted in 2018 and found that the city’s recycling ranged from 25-30% contamination. This is a trend that can be seen across the United States, with many cities having a similar contamination rate in their recycling. Contamination can create very hazardous working conditions, as plastic bags and electronics can cause fires in our facilities. Contamination can also cause an entire load of true recyclables to be rejected by the city’s processors and then it all must be disposed of as trash. Furthermore, contamination also makes recycling programs costly.

China's essential closure as a market, in addition to improper recycling practices across the U.S., has made recycling very expensive for cities - even more so than taking the material to a landfill or waste-to-energy facility. As a result, cities around the country have decided to end their recycling programs. Fortunately, the city of Clearwater remains committed to offering a recycling program to its residents and businesses. The city is actively focusing on improving the quality of its recycling and is educating the public about what is accepted in the city’s program. Focusing on waste reduction, first and foremost, is the best course of action – with proper composting and recycling being used as secondary practices to repurpose valuable material.

Strategy 3: Backyard Composting Program

  • Continue the virtual Clearwater Creates Compost course and complete an annual compost bin giveaway da

Organic waste, like food scraps and yard trimmings, release methane when placed within the oxygen-free conditions of a landfill. Methane is an incredibly potent GHG. In 2018, methane produced roughly 9.5% of all human made U.S. GHG emissions. While that percentage is small, methane has a global warming factor that is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

In an effort to reduce food waste as well as methane generation, the city launched an online “Create Compost” course in late 2020 that encourages people to learn to compost in their backyard. Program participation was incentivized by providing a starter composting bin to residents who enroll in the program and live within City of Clearwater limits.

Strategy 4: Commercial Composting

  • Develop a pilot composting program to divert food scraps from landfills and demonstrate the viability of a city-wide program.

With the help of local organizations, the city will develop a pilot composting program to divert food scraps from the landfill and demonstrate the viability of a city-wide program. The pilot program will initially target the commercial sector, with preference for high volume generators of food waste including hospitals, schools, hotels, and restaurants for on-site or collection composting programs. Information on participation rates, challenges, benefits, and costs will be tracked and monitored. If demonstrated that the program’s economic, environmental and social benefits outweigh the costs, the study may be expanded to collecting and processing food waste from select neighborhoods in the residential sector.

Strategy 5: Trash to Trends Events

  • Organize an annual community event for swapping reusable goods to divert reusable goods from the solid waste stream.

Similar to websites like Freecycle and Craigslist that provide a platform for giving away or exchanging used goods, the city will organize an annual community event for swapping reusable goods. The event, like the Clearwater Community Swap held in downtown in 2010, would serve to divert reusable goods from the solid waste stream and could be combined with an educational and awareness campaign on waste reduction practices.

Strategy 6: Municipal Waste Reduction Policy

  • Adopt formal waste reduction policy and goals that address ocean-friendly recycling and printing practices.
  • Consider development of standards for events held on municipal sites to reduce waste generation, consumption of single-use plastics, and increase recycling by thousands of eventgoers per year.

At present, the city promotes payment of bills online. Moving forward, where possible, the city will also transmit important billing documents on recycled paper. Furthermore, the city offers recycling at many of its facilities and has transitioned to paperless (i.e., electronic) systems in most of its departments. In 2018, the Clearwater City Council also unanimously passed Resolution 18-08 to encourage Clearwater businesses to adopt ocean-friendly practices. Ocean-friendly businesses choose reusable, paper-based biodegradable, compostable or recyclable materials instead and maintain a clean recycling program. Ocean-friendly practices include not using plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic utensils, Styrofoam, and balloons.

The city’s next step will be to adopt a formal waste reduction policy and goals that address ocean-friendly, recycling, and printing practices. Also, standards for events held on municipal sites will be developed to reduce waste generation and use of single use plastics as well as increase recycling by thousands of event goers in Clearwater each year. Guidelines for this municipal waste reduction policy will be outlined under the city’s Green Procurement Policy (Green Economy strategy #8).

Learn More About Waste Reduction

Waste Generation

Recyclable Material

Cost of Recycling

Global Warming Potential