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When you recycle, where does your trash go?

It's the new year. Time for out with the old and in with the new (provided it's practical and affordable). If your resolution is to recycle all that "old," you're not alone. From tires to Christmas trees, almost everything these days ends up recycled and resurrected as something more useful. To help get you started, tbt* put together a recycling guide, with info about tracking curbside recyclables, disposing of old televisions and appliances, shopping at stores that sell cool recycled stuff, and simply taking a recycling pledge. Do what you can. Planet Earth will thank you.

Where does your garbage go?

You see the green triangular arrow everywhere, from plastic water bottles to public service announcements. Reduce, reuse, recycle. It's the new three Rs.

Recycling bottles, cans and newspapers is pretty easy, especially if you have curbside recycling. Just put them in a bin and a trash crew will haul them away.

But where does all that trash go once it's out of your hands?

For residents of Tampa, Temple Terrace and parts of unincorporated Hillsborough County, the basic recyclables — plastic, aluminum, paper and glass — go to Waste Management's Recycle America facility on N 53rd Street.

Greg Branam, an 18-year veteran of Waste Management, runs the place, which dates to the 1970s when it was a paper processing plant. Today, the facility serves as a transfer station for residential recycling. City and government-contracted trucks collect the recyclables curbside, then dump them into a huge pile at the plant.

The residential recyclables are hauled to a processing plant near Orlando where they are sorted by material. From there, the plastic, glass, paper and aluminum go to different processing companies that make various items, from fiber fill for jackets to carpeting.

The commercial recycling collected at the Tampa facility, mostly paper and cardboard, is bundled and shipped to mills to Alabama, Georgia and elsewhere in Florida. It reappears as tissue and paper towels.

The amount of residential recycling tends to increase around the holidays, Branam said. Snowbirds are back and consumption associated with parties and gift giving is up.

This year, collections were even higher because, as of July 1, the city of Tampa began accepting phone books, paperback books, junk mail, cereal boxes, six-pack soda boxes, office paper and cardboard. The city also added recycling at MacDill Air Force Base.

About 35 percent of eligible households are recycling, said Tonja Brickhouse, director of Tampa's Solid Waste Department. That's well below Gov. Charlie Crist's goal of 75 percent by 2020, but higher than just a few years ago.

Disparities among neighborhoods remains one of the department's greatest challenges, Brickhouse said. About 70 percent of households in South Tampa are recycling, compared with only 6 percent in East Tampa, a poorer area with a large transitory population.

The city is working on ways to narrow that gap by educating children, placing bins at schools and meeting with neighborhood leaders.

For large household items, the city schedules cleanups for every neighborhood once a year. Residents can put out old appliances, furniture, mattresses, tires and yard waste — items normally not picked up during normal trash days — and city crews and volunteers will collect them.

New in 2009, rather than collect the items on Saturday, the city will collect them during the work week. For a schedule, go to tampagov.net/solidwaste.

Ho, ho, throw

Wondering what to do with the Christmas tree withering in the corner? Most local governments will recycle trees and turn them into mulch. In Tampa, trees should be placed at the curb by Monday for removal next week. Residents also can dispose them at the Manhattan Brush site, 7215 N Manhattan Ave., or at the McKay Bay transfer station, 114 S 34th St. Hillsborough County offers tree recycling on its yard waste collection days. Cut trees into 4-foot sections and place at the curb. Residents can deliver to yard waste county facilities at 350 Falkenburg Road, 8001 W Linebaugh Ave. and 13001 U.S. 41.

Resolve to recycle

The city of Tampa offers a recycling pledge that people can submit online, print and post in a prominent spot. It covers a list of ways people can recycle and reduce their waste, from starting a compost pile to buying items in bulk. Pledgers need only check the things they plan to do. So far, about 10,000 people have taken the pledge. It comes with a "Recycle Today ... Save Tomorrow'' wristband, in case you forget. Visit tampagov.net/dept_solid_waste and click the pledge link in the lower right-hand corner.

When you recycle, where does your trash go? 01/01/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 1, 2009 7:29pm]

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