Tour gives citizens overview of county's recycling facilities

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By Eryn Worthington


* Americans go through 25 billion plastic bottles every year.
* When you recycle an aluminum can, you save enough energy to watch TV for two hours or work on the computer for three hours.
* More than 50 percent of new aluminum cans are made from recycled aluminum.
* Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every month.
* When you put an empty soda can in a recycling bin, it can be turned into a new soda can in two months.
— Information from Single Stream Processors Inc.

You just devoured your delivery pizza and refreshing soda. It is one of those lazy days and you are not sure what to do.

Should you quickly throw the box and bottle in the trash, or take the extra step to recycle?

Keep Citrus County Beautiful is hoping your answer is recycle.

Thursday was America Recycles Day, a national day to encourage Americans to recycle and buy recycled products.

Organized by Keep Citrus County Beautiful, 50 Citrus County citizens gathered at Inverness Walmart and loaded three buses for a free guided tour of county recycling facilities.

“Encouraging recycling is one of the missions of Keep Citrus County Beautiful,” said Susie Metcalfe, KCCB board member, avid recycler and former director of the Citrus County landfill. “This is America Recycles Day, which was established by Keep America Beautiful. The county commission declared it Citrus County Recycles Day. We wanted to be able to educate interested people about what recycling services are available in the county and hope to get more people on the bandwagon.”

By 2020, the goal is for 75 percent of solid waste to be recycled in Citrus County.

“It is a shame to waste the resources that go into all the packaging to use a product once,” Metcalfe said. “It is going to be hard to get to 75 percent of the population to recycle. We need to get people aware and to participate.”

In an effort to move toward the 75 percent goal, Keep Citrus County Beautiful provided the tour to foster awareness and understanding.

The first stop on the tour was at Single Stream Processors Inc. (SSP), run by F.D.S. Disposal Inc. in Lecanto, to observe the sorting process of single-stream recyclables.

William Ray, vice president of F.D.S. Disposal Inc., said 80 percent of solid wastes thrown away are recyclable. Also, out of his 45,000 residential customers, only 13,000 homes recycle.

Ray said recycling is as easy as looking for a symbol.

“We want people to look for numbered plastic products,” Ray said. “If it is unnumbered, it will end up in our landfill. Anything with a recycle symbol is recyclable. If you can see the symbol, throw it in the recycle container or take it to drop-off centers around the county.”

SSP allows customers to place all recyclable material into one container. Once materials reach the company facility they have linemen who separate solid wastes into appropriate containers.

Once the product is separated into bunkers, they place the material into a bailing machine. Products are then made into 53- by 32- by 21-inch cubes. Products are then sold to various sources to create new products.

The second stop on the tour was at Technology Conservation Group (TCG) in Lecanto, for a look at how electronics are recycled and the materials are recovered.

“The majority of what we take in is mostly from corporations,” said Cathy Mehrl, information technology manager. “We do data destruction and certify it so that none of the customer’s information remains.”

When they have items that are reusable, their first step is to recycle. If electronics are no longer functional, they shred the materials.

For nonfunctional items, the first step is to take all of the hazardous waste, such as batteries, out. Once parts are sorted, they are put onto a feeder to be sent into the shredder.

Shredders then break down the components into 2-inch squares. Next, these parts are placed under a large magnet that separates steel from others.

Materials are then separated into non-steel items, such as copper, aluminum and stainless steel. Next, machines separate precious metals, such as gold. Another machine will separate plastic from the group.

“There are four sets of blades in the shredder,” said Vicki Andrews, shredder supervisor. “It is rated for 10,000 pounds an hour to cut up. We can cut up a whole lot of electronic equipment.”

The final stop on the tour was the Citrus County Landfill. Attendees were given the opportunity to learn about how different types of materials are managed and how non-recyclable items are disposed of.

When non-recyclables arrive at the landfill, they are separated into different types materials, such as furniture, tires, appliances and yard litter. A compactor then smashes the waste.

Citrus County landfill workers then bury the waste in lined “cells,” plastic-lined holes in the ground. The plastic liner is about a half-inch thick. Garbage that is not buried is recycled.

Keep Citrus County Beautiful organizers said they were grateful for the response to the tour and hope to offer another recycling tour in February.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” Metcalfe said. “We had so many extra callers that we put many people on a waiting list and will probably do another tour in February.”

Chronicle reporter Eryn Worthington can be contacted at 352-563-5660, ext. 1334, or eworthington@chronicleonline.com.