LARGO (FOX 13) - A device known by sanitation workers as 'The Gripper' helps deliver recyclables from your driveway to the city's sorting facility. The only problem is, those facilities are now having a hard time selling the sorted material.
Largo’s director of public works says China, once America’s best customer, is getting pickier with what it accepts, dropping its contamination rate per bundle to 15 percent.
Items like foam crate pads, bubble wrap, shoes, and Styrofoam to-go containers are all considered contamination. Even your garden hose falls into that category.
“We often find that inadvertently things get put in the program that just [aren't] acceptable," Usher said. “Any more than 15 percent of the quantity that is received that is not allowable can make that whole load unacceptable to the vendor.”
It's also led to a collapse in prices for what China is willing to pay. As a result, Largo officials say they will have to raise solid waste rates more than originally anticipated.
“We’re having to raise it an additional five percent, which to the average resident is a couple of cents per day," he said.
There could be a day when the city has to pay to give the recycling processor the materials.
"We used to receive somewhere in the vicinity of $25,000 a month for the single-source material we brought down there," he said. "So instead of making $250,000 a year, we're going to be paying $500,000 a year to have that material recycled."
It's not just Largo's problem. Usher says it's an issue for public works departments all over the Bay Area.