- 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.