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Taking Out The Trash

SPC Programs & Events

by Lauren Finn

Wondering where all of the trash goes that we throw away isn’t an everyday concern for most of us. Being focused on work and school, plus any type of social life are our main concerns; though with the holidays here, our trash out-put increases. Monday, November 30th at the Tarpon Springs campus, Jan Tracy, program coordinator at the Pinellas County Utility Solid Waste Operations, spoke about waste management and the importance of recycling.

We bring our trash to the curb then poof, it goes away. But where does it go? There is “no magical place of away. It goes somewhere,” said Tracy in regards to our trash. Pinellas County residents and businesses throw away about two million tons of trash each year. The waste is brought to the 700 acre PCU Solid Waste Operations where it is burned and generated into electricity. This electricity is sold to Duke Energy and provides for as many as 40,000 homes a day. Any other fumes are filtered and released into the air as steam and must meet the Clean Air Standards. The ash that is left over goes through a process in which magnets take out any recyclable metals, then put into a landfill. This method cuts out 90% of the bulk the solid waste would add to a landfill.

This process is extremely beneficial, though we cannot rely only on this process. There is up to 26% of paper that is burned that could have been recycled. Here are some tips from Jan Tracy on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

  • Do not put your recyclables into plastic bags.
  • Publix will take your Styrofoam and product wrap such as wrapping that is around water bottles bought in bulk.
  • Plastic bags can be recycled at a number of grocery stores such as Publix and Winn Dixie.
  • Make it a goal to not use plastic bags.
  • Try to not buy in excess, buy only what you need.
  • Look for packaging where less is more.
  • Paper cups, silverware, and plates should be avoided. Washing the dishes in not the most exciting chore, but it really makes an impact on waste management
  • Grass clippings, weeds, leaves, yard waste etc. should be recycled! Keep it separate from other trash or recyclables and it will be made into processed and treated mulch that is free to anyone.
  • All recycled goods should be clean and dry.
  • Become aware of what is and what hazardous waste isn’t, and how to properly dispose of it. Check out pinellascounty.org/solidwaste/getridofit

Header photo by Jeannine St-Amour (flickr creative commons)

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