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Recycling's challenge: selling

When it comes to recycling, Pinellas County is more than a step ahead of the law. In fact, it's about two years ahead of the law.

Every county in the state is required by 1994 to recycle 30 percent of its waste. According to a report submitted Tuesday to the state Department of Environmental Regulation, Pinellas already has surpassed that figure. That report is subject to DER's approval, said county recycling coordinator Rebecca Stone.

While she is pleased with the findings, Stone said the Pinellas County Recycling Committee is still focused on educating people to expand their recycling efforts. A major challenge, she said, is getting people to buy recycled goods.

"The "buy recycled' message still isn't getting out. A lot of people don't realize how easy it is to buy recycled goods," she said. "They're available in most stores."

Recycled office and school supplies, such as stick-it notes, typing paper, spiral notebooks and pencils, can be purchased from area drugstores and department stores. Several bay area stores also carry recycled greeting cards and stationery, and restaurants use everything from recycled glass to paper napkins.

Despite the organization's increased education efforts for Pinellas County residents, Stone concedes that the market for recycling is still low.

"There's a big drop in the amount of material reported by scrap (metal) dealers," she said. "A lot of that has to do with the economy. Scrap metal prices are the lowest they've been in 20 years. And we're paying $125 a ton for recycling soda, milk and water jugs, which is extremely high."

In addition to buying recycled products, overall waste reduction is another goal of the committee.

"People just really need to stop throwing away so much, and be intentional about buying things that aren't overpackaged," Stone said.