Mounds and mounds of household garbage in Broward are heaped in landfills today, as the county’s recycling efforts diminish.
State environmental officials have released figures confirming what Broward leaders expected: Recycling here dropped last year, from 60 percent of household waste in 2013 to 52 percent last year.
At the same time, Palm Beach County experienced a much less severe dip in its recycling efforts.
Though Broward’s rate is slightly better than the statewide 50 percent average, it moves the county farther from a state goal that 75 percent of household waste be recycled by 2020.
The reason, in part: Trash that was previously burned into electricity in Broward County was instead dumped in a Central Florida landfill.
“It just makes me feel like we’ve taken such a big step backward,” Broward Commissioner Beam Furr said.
The past year was one of upheaval in Broward’s garbage disposal business. Though homeowners leave their cast-offs on the curb and may never consider it again, the disposal business is a big one.
Broward’s garbage was mostly handled by Waste Management and its then-subsidiary Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. But much has changed.
The breakup of a longtime trash-disposal alliance among Broward cities led to new competition. And many cities left Waste Management/Wheelabrator for West Broward businessman Ron Bergeron’s new company, Sun Bergeron. Their trash was no longer recycled via incineration in Wheelabrator’s waste-to-energy plants, a process that qualifies in Florida as recycling. Rather, it was trucked 172 miles north to a landfill in Central Florida.
Meanwhile, Waste Management increased the amount of trash it plopped on Monarch Hill, aka “Mount Trashmore,” its landfill in northern Broward. And traditional recycling dropped as well.
Brittany Wallman A deal to allow Wheelabrator to stop burning trash at the north incinerator in unincorporated Broward near Pompano Beach is the first controversy of Mayor Tim Ryan’s fledgling mayorship. A deal to allow Wheelabrator to stop burning trash at the north incinerator in unincorporated Broward near Pompano Beach is the first controversy of Mayor Tim Ryan’s fledgling mayorship. ( Brittany Wallman ) –>
Waste Management has since won approval from the Broward County Commission to shut down its waste-to-energy incinerator in northern Broward. Garbage previously burned there will instead be trucked to Wheelabrator’s waste-to-electricity plant in southern Broward.
The northern plant is burning the last of the garbage in its pit in the coming days, spokeswoman Dawn McCormick said.
Though Florida’s second largest county, Broward produced the most garbage last year — 3.8 million tons of municipal solid waste — even more than neighboring giant Miami-Dade County, according to figures from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
And while Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties decreased the amount of garbage dumped in landfills, Broward increased its landfilled trash from 38 percent to 46 percent, according to the state.
Miami-Dade County recycled 45 percent of its garbage, compared to 41 percent the prior year. Palm Beach County‘s recycling efforts dipped slightly from 56 percent in 2013 to 53 percent last year.
But even at that, Palm Beach County‘s recycling success is ahead of Broward’s, particularly with the recent opening of a $670 million incinerator that burns trash into electricity for the Florida Power Light grid.
“Some have said it’s not necessarily a waste-to-energy machine but a waste reduction machine,” spokesman Willie Puz of Palm Beach County‘s Solid Waste Authority said.
Palm Beach County will be able to create electricity from all of its household waste, Puz said, and place none of it in landfills. The county expects to meet the state’s 75 percent recycling goal early because of the incinerator, Puz said.
Broward Commissioner Furr lamented Broward County‘s setback, including closure of the northern incinerator.
“When counties are building brand new ones and we’re getting ready to mothball one, it makes no sense at all,” Furr said. “We’re not taking care of our own.’
Next year’s recycling percentages should be higher for both counties, though, because of the new Palm Beach County incinerator.
Puz said the new incinerator, in West Palm Beach, has a contract with Sun Bergeron to burn at least 78,000 tons of Broward garbage a year there. That’s because Palm Beach County doesn’t need its new incinerator’s full capacity for five to eight years, he said.
Sun Bergeron spokeswoman Patti Hamilton said the company will send about 70 percent of its Broward garbage to the incinerator, and the rest will be placed in the landfill in Central Florida.
“Our whole focus is ‘Recycling for Zero Waste’ and will continue to be that, as we move forward,” she said in an email.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4541
Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel