Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste (DSW) manages the county’s landfill, numerous recycling programs and has one of the largest Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facilities in the country. Improper consumer actions stemming from misinformation and a lack of knowledge have been challenges to the recycling industry. COVID-19 has introduced additional challenges such as the cancellation of events and tours, reduction or prohibition of private-sector collection, and much more. During this year, HCP Associates worked with DSW leadership and staff to understand current outreach and educational initiatives, ongoing services, programs, and the impacts directly seen by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey leveraged a telephonic methodology to reach a representative sample of 800 Pinellas County residents. The results benchmark current recycling participation, motivating and demotivating factors, and identify practices that are contributing to improper recycling, which enables DSW to tailor its outreach to maximize recycling participation and minimize improper recycling habits.
Of those living in a single-family dwelling, 86% participate in curbside recycling. For those living in a multifamily residence, only 64% cite that their complex offers recycling, and of that percentage, 92% participate in recycling. Regardless of the type of dwelling respondents live in, the reasons for recycling are the same—to protect the earth, that it is the right thing to do, and to reduce what is going into the landfills. Across both subsets, there are about 1 in 10 that are recycling an item even if they are unsure if it is recyclable or not.
Ultimately, a large portion of Pinellas County residents are eager to recycle; however, opportunities remain for more residents to recycle and for them to recycle the correct items. Primary recommendations extracted from data and analysis are: to increase community engagement with recycling, encourage multifamily housing to offer recycling services to their residents, and articulate the state of the landfill and potential policy actions to meet the Department’s Zero Waste to Landfill goal.