Counties burn recyclables after malfunction, pandemic shut down facility
Across Hillsborough and Pasco, solid waste officials say, nearly 20,000 tons of recyclables ended up in an incinerator.
While the pandemic has seen Tampa Bay households stacking garbage at higher-than-usual rates, solid waste officials said, a major recycling facility suffered a malfunction and building closure that left counties burning thousands of tons of recyclables.
From roughly March 18 to June 15, the Waste Connections facility in St. Petersburg did not process recycling, said Damian Ribar, the company’s division vice president for Florida. The operation is what’s called a materials recovery facility — where waste is sorted into reusable groupings like cardboard and plastics. Among Waste Connections’ biggest local contracts are Hillsborough and Pasco counties and the City of St. Petersburg, he said.
During the stoppage, Hillsborough’s solid waste department reported sending 15,650 tons of recyclables to a plant that burns trash to produce electricity. Pasco officials said the county also started moving recyclables to an incinerator, called a waste-to-energy facility, eventually burning about 1,714 tons since early April. Representatives for both counties said waste managers did not send recyclables to the landfill.
St. Petersburg secured an agreement to temporarily take recyclables to a different company so they could be broken down for reuse instead of burned, said assistant sanitation director Robert Turner.
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