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Improving the Quality of Recyclables in Orange County

When it comes to capturing the different materials that enter the U.S. residential recycling system, it is as important for residents to know what cannot be recycled as it is to know what can be recycled. Excessive contamination can cause a host of problems once the material is collected. The curbside recycling program in Orange County, Florida, had a nearly 40% contamination rate, which threatened the long-term sustainability of the program. For that reason, the county began working with The Partnership in 2019 on an initial Feet on the Street contamination reduction program, with the goal of expanding the program to its 220,000 households by 2023.

The program succeeded in reducing the contamination rate by 29%, improving material value by 23%, and generating 40 million pounds of recyclables annually. From 2020 to 2021, loads processed at the county’s MRF increased tenfold, and the partnership between the county and MRF processor has deepened. Together, they are exploring new technologies that could enable the MRF to correlate quality with the Feet on the Street contamination data. Based on these positive results, the county secured funding to enable the entire county to adopt the strategy by 2023.

The project drove a transformation of the county’s recycling system, resulting in a better connected and more efficient program that will ultimately provide recycling to 1.3 million residents and with the potential to recover $3.6 million in recycled material value when implemented countywide.

See more stories of how The Recycling Partnership is solving with communities like Orange County, Florida in the 2022 Impact Report.

Download the 2022 Impact Report