John’s Island launches recycling effort for soft plastics

Dan Compas, Recycling Education and Marketing Coordinator Sue Flak, Beach Club Assistant Manager Nicole Dugan and David Colclough. [Photo: Kaila Jones]

The 1,400-member John’s Island Club has launched a new initiative to help residents and staff properly recycle soft plastics that are causing problems for the county’s blue-bin recycling program.

The club has just installed four industrial-sized receptacles to handle soft plastic food containers, shrink wrap and other items generated by its beach and golf clubs, and 15 smaller containers will be placed outside its restaurants and other gathering places for residents to use.

“This is something that not only the management wants to do, but the club members want to do as well,” said David Colclough, the club’s assistant general manager. “This is not an inexpensive thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Indian River County residents are very good about recycling – except for one thing: many dispose of soft plastic waste like grocery and dry-cleaning bags in their blue recycling bins.

That’s a problem, according to the county’s recycling education and marketing coordinator Sue Flak.

“Do NOT bag your recyclables,” Flak said.

Residents are supposed to separate soft plastics from recyclable items like hard plastic water bottles and jugs – which do go in the blue bins – and drop them at convenience centers around the county, the single-stream holding center in Vero Beach, or in bins provided at many Publix stores.

But Flak says about 30 percent of blue bins countywide are contaminated with soft plastics, dog poop and other garbage that gums up recycling equipment, costs the county extra money to sort, and ends up in the county landfill anyway. She said the county will conduct field audits to check for compliance.

“If you continue to contaminate your recycling container, you could be fined $500,” Flak said.

Colclough said the club will train its more than 500 employees on how to dispose of soft plastic waste. And Mike Korpar, general manager of the Johns Island Property Owners Association, said he will direct homeowners to the new receptacles through email blasts and brochures.

Korpar said he’s working on a plan to place soft plastic recycling containers outside condo blocks and in a central location close to single-family houses for even more convenience.

Properly disposed of soft plastic waste, which can take about 1,000 years to decompose in landfills, is trucked to Tropical Recycling in Fort Pierce, where it is packed up and shipped to facilities elsewhere in the U.S. to be re-purposed into lawn furniture, decking, walkways and other products.

Meanwhile, the Rotary Club has enlisted the help of the Indian River County school system to install loose-plastic collection bins at 24 schools. Volunteers collect the bins and take them to Publix to be emptied. The Rotarians have also engaged three local businesses in the program: Walking Tree Brewery; Coastal Van Lines; and the Ralph Lauren store at the Vero Beach Outlet Mall.

The Rotary’s Jeff Powers said he expects larger local businesses to follow their lead.

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