WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — April 22 has long since been a day dedicated to environmental action.
Earth Day came about in 1970. More than 50 years later, South Florida businesses and activists still use the opportunity to acknowledge the importance of taking care of Planet Earth.
The Solid Waste Authority is the primary recycling center in Palm Beach County. Willie Puz with SWA wants to call attention to recycling right on Earth Day.
"By recycling, you can think of an aluminum can, there's less mining that has to be done," Puz said. "There's less trees that have to be cut down to make paper, to make cardboard."
Puz said SWA take in more than 100,000 tons of recyclables each year.
"By recycling, we're putting those things that were already captured and done with to new use," Puz said.
But he said the biggest issue they are facing right now is contamination, which is when items are not sorted properly. SWA currently has a contamination rate of 8-9%.
Palm Beach County is one of few counties who uses a two-bin recycling system, a blue bin and a yellow bin. The sorting system makes their products more useful than a one bin recycling system.
Blueir for plastics, aluminum, and glass. Yellow is for paper, cardboard and newspapers.
Puz said when people throw garbage in a bin, hoping it's recyclable, they call it "wish recycling." This, he said, is leading to truckloads being contaminated.
"Don't wish recycling," Puz said. "Don't think that someone will sort this out or, 'Oh, there's a little bit of metal or plastic in it. I'll put it in the recycle bin and someone will deal with it.' That doesn't happen. There's too much volume."
All items deemed contaminated are sent to SWA's Waste Energy Facility, where they burn the materials and capture the energy for use. According to Puz, the facility powers more than 70,000 homes in Palm Beach County each year.