Published: Mar 26, 2014 5:55 PM EDT
Updated: Mar 26, 2014 5:55 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- It's your money and Lee County spent about $12,000 of it to educate homeowners on what's recyclable and what's not.

The county says people are throwing trash in recycle bins and that has county costs piling up. About 300 tons of material comes in each day and about 10% of that is not recyclable.

So the county sent out mailers to thousands of homeowners to educate them on the topic.

Solid Waste Division Deputy Director Keith Howard says, "we want to try to get some of the trash that people are putting in their bins mistakenly out of the recyclables so we can get clean material."

He says when the county went to single-stream recycling, "people got bigger bins which is great, when they run out of room they can put more recyclables in. But they also tend to put in things that should not go in there." Some of those items include shrink wrap, garden hoses and clothes.

And he says when that happens, productivity at the recycling center goes down. "The system here, we have a lot of moving, spinning parts. Those things get contaminated on those parts and they end up clogging the system, it doesn't work as effectively as it should. It becomes a maintenance nightmare. It gets wrapped around the shaft of the spinning item and when it gets stuck it becomes like concrete on there." He says it can cost hundreds of dollars to replace just one simple part.

Howard adds, "if we get 300 tons out of the system across the year, it's paid for itself. So it's minimal cost, and we'll get great benefit if people pay attention."

And in the end, it saves your money. "All of this material we're pulling out has a value, and we're sending that to markets. We're getting paid for the things we're sending out- aluminum cans, detergent bottles, milk jugs, all these things have value and the money we receive from that helps benefit the system and keeps rates low," he says.