Florida has the highest recycling goal of any state in the United States. Florida’s Legislation passed Florida’s 75 percent recycling goal to be completed by 2020 in regard to the House Bill 7243 that was passed in 2010. Former Gov. Charlie Crist passed signed the bill into law. Currently, Gov. Rick Scott is in charge of the project but from a few reports a lot of experts do not think that it is feasible at the rate it is progressing.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s waste reduction section manager Ron Henricks said, “Our agency is in the middle of rulemaking to determine what will and will not count towards the new goal, so it is too early to give much feedback on progress towards the goal. I will note that for the most recent year that data is available which is 2009, the statewide recycling rate was 29 percent. Clearly, there is a lot to be done to reach the goal by the 2020 deadline.”
Although Broward County’s recycling program is booming, the statewide goal of 75 percent may not be reached.
Waste and Recycling Services recycling program manager of Plantation, Fla. Phillip Bresee said, “The 75 percent goal has certainly helped put recycling and solid waste issues back onto policy makers’ radar screens. It’s prompted many counties and cities to not only examine their current recycling efforts, but also to begin laying the groundwork for increasing recycling and diversion.” Bresee is 42 years old, and has been designing and managing recycling and waste reduction programs for 20 years. He originally worked in suburban Maryland and continued working in the waste reduction field located in Broward County since 2004.
Bresee noted that a greater focus on recycling by way of the Florida’s 75 percent plan could generate a lot of environmental benefits statewide by the more people that get involved with it. Bresee said, “On an almost parallel track, many Florida cities and counties have adopted sustainability and climate change action plans, and recycling is often a centerpiece of those plans. Renewed attention to recycling programs [beyond those that are] already in place, at least at the residential level, can yield immediate benefits and can be catalyst for programs that increase recycling by businesses and institutions.”
Bresee believes that there is still more work to be done in order for county residents to really make a difference through their recycling. Bresee said, “There is still room to grow residential recycling through programs like single-stream recycling, automated pickup in roll-out carts, and service approaches such as once a week garbage pickup, green waste recycling, and Pay as You Throw [PAYT], which not only leads to increased recycling but also incentivizes residents to dispose of less garbage.” Apparently, every product that is recycled makes a difference in helping this country become more eco-friendly.
Bresee thinks that more and more corporate companies need to do their share in recycling because they use an exponential amount of materials and recycling them properly would make a big difference in Florida, in terms of the helping the environment and for reaching Florida’s 75 percent recycling goal. Bresee said, “There are also huge opportunities to increase recycling rates by targeting the biggest components of the overall waste stream which are typically organics and construction and demolition debris. Most of these types of materials are generated by the commercial sector, which accounts for about two-thirds of the waste generated in Florida each year. Communities have traditionally taken a hands-off approach to commercial recycling but I envision we’ll see a lot more cooperative efforts to help take recycling rates to the next level.”
Bresee, like many other recycling advocates involved in the recycling business is skeptical about whether or not the 75 percent goal can be met by 2020. Bresee said, “There is still some uncertainty over what the mechanics of achieving the 75 percent goal will look like. DEP is seeking the okay to restart creation of the administrative rule-making process and a lot of interests have provided input to the department. As we all move forward I hope that our focus is on actually increasing recycling [instead of] simply changing the definitions of what recycling is.” Florida’s 75 percent recycling program has sparked a lot of controversy and it is difficult to implement new programs without getting proper authorization first.
Bresee thinks that there are some issues with Florida’s 75 percent plan because certain fundamentals were not explained by the enactors of the bill. Bresee said, “some of the fundamentals that the 75 percent goal does not address are what steps can be taken to help us not create so much garbage in the first place.”
Other states are also enacting waste reforms but they do not always include recycling or preventive measures to combat the excessive waste problems. Bresee said, “Communities like San Francisco, Alameda County, California, Boulder, Colorado, and Austin, Texas have all adopted Zero Waste goals, which are program approaches that don’t just emphasize recycling, reuse and managing waste, but also address upstream policy actions such as redesign of consumer products, and requiring manufacturers to assume more responsibility for the waste that they create. I think these approaches, typically include PAYT, Extended Producer Responsibility and producer pays programs, will become much more prevalent, and even conventional, as time goes on.”
John Moyle said, “While the 75 percent recycling goal by the year 2020 is very ambitious, a definite stretch goal, setting the bar that high has thus far prompted lots of discussion and creative thinking about ways to achieve that target.” Moyle is a lawyer-lobbyist who has represented clients interested in solid waste and recycling issues before the legislature and FDEP for nearly 20 years. Moyle is in private law practice. He is a 49-year-old partner with the law firm of Keefe, Anchors, Gordon and Moyle, P.A. Moyle represents a number of clients, including Waste Management Inc. of Florida, which is the largest solid waste and recycling company in Florida.
Moyle said, “the FDEP has held rule development workshops on the 75 percent recycling goal. The current administration of Governor Scott has ordered new rule making be temporarily suspended. I believe the rule making that is still likely to take place that will further clarify what counts toward meeting the goal is a key event that will affect whether the 75 percent goal is achieved by the year 2020.
According to Moyle, the 2008 Legislation session requested the FDEP to prepare a recycling study for the state of Florida to meet a 75 percent goal by the year 2020. This caused each county statewide to meet a target goal; the goal for Dec 31, 2012 is 40 percent, following with an increase of approximately 10 percent every two years. By Dec 31, 2014 the statewide goal is 50 percent. BY Dec 16, 2016 the benchmark is 60 percent. By Dec 31, 2018 the benchmark would be 70 percent. By Dec 31, 2020 each county statewide should be at 75 percent.
According to Moyle, the Florida statewide 75 percent recycling goal can be broken down as follows: The overall goal of this 75 percent recycling plan is to help stimulate production of renewable energy from solid waste. Each county has to meet certain requirements including reporting the amount of processed and recycled materials. The Department of Management Services has to oversee the reports of purchased recycled materials. School systems including public kindergarten through twelfth grade schools, colleges, and universities have to report their own recycling rates to their county. The FDEP has to report its numbers to the House Speaker and the Senate President, so that they know that it is progressing properly.
According to Moyle if a county does not meet its benchmark they then have to expand its recycling program to other areas such as residential communities and commercial workplaces by order of the FDEP. If the state of Florida does not reach its overall goal then measures will be taken to make changes to the recycling program so that the goal is met.
Florida’s 75 percent recycling goal could be beneficial to contracting companies too. Executive Director, Mike Taylor of the National Demolition Association said, “It is essential that policy makers understand that every demolition contractor maximizes the amount of material recycling on every job they work on. They do this because it is good public policy, good for the environment, good public relations for their companies but most importantly because they can make money at it.”
Taylor said, “The Demolition Industry generates approximately 115 million tons of demolition debris every year in the United States, recycling over 60 percent of the material. While many commodities in a structure can be recycled from a technical standpoint, there are really only three that have a market value, which includes all the metal, which goes to the scrap industry. The Demolition Association is the large source of feedstock of the scrap industry. Other things that have a lot of market value is much of the concrete, asphalt and aggregate material. This is important because over 100 million pieces of this material is recycled annually with the heavy highway and asphalt paving industries. Additionally, a growing percentage of the wood is increasing in market value mainly because there are numerous recycling opportunities for wood from particleboard to fuel supplements in wood-burning power plants. Most of other commodities do not have a market value that promotes recycling but research continues to develop these recycling technologies.”
Taylor said, “It is essential to understand that market development is key to any recycling effort. While the state of Florida may believe that mandating a set percentage of recycling will produce these required markets, this has not happened yet in other states. California and Massachusetts have established similar mandated recycling rates and have yet to reach their goals as markets for the commodities coming out of the industry’s wastestream remain stagnant as the economy continues to struggle.”