Published: February 18, 2019

    Florida City Drops Recycling Program, Sheds Light on International Recycling Problem

    In the first days of January the government of Deltona, Florida, voted to suspend its curbside recycling program, much to the ire of local residents. How can a city simply stop recycling?

    The answer boils down to dollars and cents, and highlights the vast gulf between how the public perceives recycling and what actually happens on a daily basis.


    As reported in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the problems that have caused this recycling implosion are two-fold. The main contributor to the (hopefully temporary) collapse of the recycling industry is the presence of goods within curbside recycling containers that cannot be recycled. Simply put, many people stuff anything they hope can be recycled into a bin, and contaminate everything inside.

    Items that cannot be recycled include plastic bags, rope, and Christmas lights. Recyclable materials must be cleaned — avoid throwing unrinsed milk jugs, cheesy pizza boxes, or half-full pasta sauce jars into recycling. This food can spread during transport and contaminate more items.

    Workers are required to sort through recyclable materials and discard improper items. The company Waste Management estimates that 25% of the recycling it collects is ultimately discarded as garbage.

    China and the Recycling Market Crash

    The United States generates 66 million tons of recyclables every year. We export the vast majority of our recyclables to countries like China, India, and Vietnam, spending a great deal to ship it there.

    Because of the improper way Americans recycle much of the material we send to China is contaminated, and must be cleaned and sorted. As a push for a cleaner, greener environment China has cracked down on what it will accept from American companies.

    At one point China took about one-third of all recyclables from the United States. Now they have changed their policies, banning many types of materials and only accepting recyclables that are 5% contaminated or less. This standard is almost impossible for American companies to meet, and the market has dried up.

    With China refusing much of America’s recyclables local governments are seeing a massive uptick in prices from collection companies who must find alternate means to dispose of the recyclable material. According to Bill Redman, a Deltona solid waste consultant, America lacks the facilities needed to process and make materials from recyclable materials. Building these facilities could take millions of dollars and several years.

    Recycling suspension is being discussed as a way to save money at neighboring cities around Deltona after price hikes from trash collectors, including nearby Ormond Beach. The effort to recycle is not worth the cost, according to these city officials.

    What You Can Do

    Educate your family on the proper ways to recycle in your home. Learn what materials can be safely recycled, including plastic containers with a 1 or 2 on the bottom inside a triangle.

    You can also reduce your overall recycling output by ditching plastic bottled water altogether. You and your family can help the environment by choosing to filter your water at home and bringing a reusable glass water bottle or a stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go.

    Systems like our Drinking Water Purification System filter common contaminants like chlorine, bacteria, cysts, lead, and viruses at a rate of 98% or greater to deliver purer, fresher drinking water. Or, for as little as $75, you can order a 2-Stage Pelican Drinking Water Filter that will reduce 60 contaminants including PFOS and PFOA.

    Fight alongside Pelican Water to reduce unrecycled plastic waste and rely on filtered water in your own home. Reducing plastic waste is part of our mission to provide families with cleaner, safer, better-tasting water in their homes in an environmentally friendly way.