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Community Recycling Success Stories: Palm Beach County, Florida

Palm Beach County sits on Florida’s Gold Coast, a 45 mile stretch along the Atlantic shoreline named for the gold recovered from sunken Spanish galleons.  The region derives much of its annual income from tourism and agriculture, and is the largest producer of sugar in the United States. 

Like Clifton, New Jersey, Palm Beach County is also extremely affluent.  The U.S. Census Bureau (2010) records median household income at $53,538, but Enterprise Florida records per capita income at $55,310, making it the most affluent county in the state.  Palm Beach is known for being a beautiful area and residents are engaged in maintaining their lifestyle and the beauty of their surroundings.

Refuse and recycling services are provided by the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County which is overseen by seven county commissioners.  Palm Beach County has the fifth highest recycling rate among the 67 counties in Florida, the highest recycling rate among the five largest counties in the state, and has been recognized as a leader in the industry by the Solid Waste Association of North America, the US EPA and Recycle Florida Today.    

Solid waste services are provided by private entities contracted to the County, although the county owns the two material recovery facilities or MRFs.  Recycling is completely voluntary and is funded through a combination of tipping fees and property taxes assessed on both single family and apartment dwellings.  Residents receive weekly curbside recycling pickup in a dual stream system, while drop-off centers (150 of them) are located in every sector of the county and are free to both residents and businesses.  All materials except Styrofoam, plastic bags and food waste are eligible for curbside collection.

The business community in Palm Beach County is included in the recycling effort as well.  The SWA performs over 1200 waste audits per year and helps businesses start up their own recycling programs.  Businesses can also sign up for the Commercial Materials Processing Agreement, and the county will pay them for clean loads of office paper and cardboard delivered to the county’s facilities.  Commercial recycling is funded through a tiered assessment based on the size of the establishment and the volume of waste generated.

Palm Beach’s recycling program is supported by multiple leadership and educational programs.  The State of Florida has set a 75 percent recycling goal (although local governments are only required to achieve 30%) and recently launched the Innovative Recycling Grants program to aid local governments in implementing and improving recycling programs.  The county itself has set a 50 percent recycling goal.  

In an effort to achieve that figure, the county launched the Palm Beach County Go Green Initiative and the Palm Beach County Green Schools Recognition Program.  The county also hosts multiple recycling events throughout the year, has an active volunteer network, runs a school education program that includes both classroom training and printed materials for grades K through 12, conducts facility tours, performs both business and community presentations and is a member of the Green Business Alliance. 

In an effort to reach new residents and further increase the recycling rate the County has begun a major advertising campaign.  The SWA’s emphasis is more on environmental stewardship and community contribution than on the logistics of waste disposal.  This reflects the community commitment to sustainability as a way of life.

To visit the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County’s web site click here.

To visit the State of Florida’s recycling web page click here.

This entry was posted in Motivating Recycling Behavior, Recycling News, Recycling Policy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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