Lee, Charlotte counties in top 10 Florida counties for recycling

Published: August 30, 2021 5:31 AM EDT
Updated: August 30, 2021 7:24 AM EDT

Your recycling efforts are paying off: In the whole state of Florida, Lee County is one of the best counties at recycling. Since tracking began in 2000, it has been in the top 10 counties, coming in second in 2020.

It was a tie between Charlotte and Pinellas counties for the top spot, with 78% of their waste recycled. Lee County was a very close second, though, with residents and businesses recycling 76% of the waste generated. People there recycled 1.6 million of the 2.2 million tons of waste generated locally in 2020, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, enough recyclables to fill 152 football fields.

Simply put, people in Lee County are throwing out less and recycling more, and they’re getting noticed for it.

“I think the residents of the county want to do the right thing,” said Timothy Lamontagne, operations manager for the Lee County Solid Waste Department. “They want to protect their environment. They really are doing a fantastic job. It shows in the numbers. You know, they are taking a stand for recycling and protecting our environment and the longevity of our waste, solid waste management facilities.”

Experts attribute much of this to residents being well educated by the county on what to recycle, as well as a desire from locals to help their environment. In addition to the normal household items being recycled, Lee County also receives recycling credit for energy produced from garbage that is processed at the waste-to-energy plant in Buckingham.

Items you recycle can be turned into viable new products, and often not what you would expect. A water bottle, for example, might end up forming the fabric for a dress. You may be amazed at how many of the items you discard everyday can be repurposed.

“When people recycle, they’re not only protecting the environment,” Lamontagne said. “They’re also contributing to the local economy; a soda container from the day that it’s shipped out of here… within 60 days, it can be back on the shelf, reused again, it can be done over and over and over again.”

If you want to learn what can and cannot be recycled, you can visit the Lee County government website. Some things people often mistake for recyclable in their bins are plastic shopping bags. If you want to repurpose them, take them back to your local Publix or Winn-Dixie.