BROOKSVILLE — The sign on the big green bin for aluminum, tin and plastic is clearly marked “No Trash” and “No Plastic Bags.” But the site is littered with forbidden garbage, both in and out of plastic bags.
Hernando County’s solid waste manager Scott Harper and recycling coordinator Carmen Bruno have loads of pictures — from microwaves and car tires dumped on the ground to a food processor and bicycle frames stuffed into the bins for cardboard boxes.
"The food processor may have come in a cardboard box,'' Bruno said, "but it should not go in the cardboard bin.''
Mixing recyclable materials drives up costs and defeats the purpose of making use of materials again. As Bruno pointed out, both motor oil and olive oil are oils, but "you can’t use motor oil in your spaghetti, and garlic and olive oil won’t work in your car.''
Contamination at the county recycling center at the 13300 Cortez Blvd. Walmart is pushing officials to close the location permanently at the end of February.
"It really boils down to the fact that it was unsupervised,'' Bruno said, noting that Walmart has been a good and patient host of the operation for years.
Cleaning up the mess is taking too much work, and Harper doesn’t have enough staff to keep the site going. The county is looking for a new contractor to transport the recyclables, Harper said, and in the meantime, the county will haul them to Alachua County.
Hernando residents who have their trash picked up by Republic Services can get their recyclables picked up curbside. They just have to request a recycling bin. About 30 people have done so since the closure signs went up at the Walmart site. Visit https://www.hernandopa-fl.us/utilweb/recyclesignup.aspx or call (352) 540-6457 to sign up for curbside recycling.
Residents also can continue to take recyclables to the county’s other sites:
- Convenience centers at 33070 Cortez Blvd. in Ridge Manor or at 2525 Osowaw Blvd. in Spring Hill
- The county landfill at 14450 Landfill Road in Brooksville
- The Hernando County Government Center at 234 E. Jefferson St. in Brooksville.
In addition to closing the popular site at Walmart, the county is no longer collecting glass for recycling. Glass has not been a marketable commodity for some time, so residents are encouraged to dispose of glass containers in their household garbage.
Despite the changes in the program, both Harper and Bruno say the county is still firmly behind the recycling program. A recent study by Republic Services showed that about 15,000 households were recycling curbside, three times more than when a similar count was done in 2016.
"It’s still our goal to recycle,'' Harper said. "It still saves landfill space.''
State officials years ago set a goal for counties to be recycling 75 percent of their waste by 2020, but only four have come close to that. In Hernando County, the percentage is closer to the high 30-percent range, Bruno said. The state is reevaluating its recycling goals.