With about 60,000 residents and 3.2 million visitors each year, Walton County, Florida — where The 30A Company was born — doesn’t just produce the beautiful beach sunsets we’ve become famous for. We also make a lot of trash… about 96,000 tons annually.
And while Walton County has several successful programs in place to try to recycle and reuse as much as we can, including collecting recyclables from the dump as trash comes in, we still only recycle about one to three percent of our trash each year.
The 30A Company wants to do something to help change that, but we need your help. We know it won’t be an easy process, but we think it’s time to rekindle the conversation, and, as we’ve heard from many fans over the years, we think you’re ready to pitch in, too.
The current state
First, let’s recap.
Walton County is already working hard to reduce the amount of trash we produce. We have 30 recycling trailers where residents and visitors can take their recyclables for pick up. (You can find a list of all locations here.)
Also, through a work program in conjunction with the Walton County prison, inmates sort through collected trash and pull out any materials that can be recycled or reused. In the last few years, the county has launched two additional initiatives: recycling clothing and holding public sales to find new owners for large, salvageable goods pulled from the landfill including sporting goods, desks and other items.
A few small privately run recycling pick-up services have also popped up to help address the massive problem, including Blu Binz and EZ PZ Recycling. (NOTE: If you are aware of additional recycling programs in Walton County, please let us know so we can include them.)
Despite our community’s efforts to-date, we still have a long way to go.
Every person in the United States produces about 4.3 pounds of trash a day, according to government officials.
When on vacation, as you buy many more disposable items, that number is often much higher, which leads to its own set of problems.
For example, let’s say each visitor here produces 35 pounds of trash a week during the high season in the spring and summer. We’re easily talking about 56,000 tons of extra garbage collected here in Walton County during just four months out of the year.
In fact, trash collection during the spring and summer months in Walton County increases so much that trash collectors have enough on their hands just to keep up, never mind sorting it and separating recyclables.
“They try to get as much as they can, but the amount coming in almost makes it impossible to keep up with,” said Louis Svehla, a spokesman for the county.
Looming large over the whole issue is one major initiative that helps substantially increase recycling rates in other communities — curbside pick-up.
In 2012, Walton County officials led a series of workshops about recycling. People who attended expressed strong interest in developing a curbside program, but the conversation didn’t go very far.
During that time, a pilot project was introduced but abandoned after costs seemed too high for what information the pilot project would have been able to produce.
One of the major complicating factors is that public trash service here is completely financed through Walton County. Costs are covered through a 1-percent sales surtax, meaning individuals don’t have a separate monthly trash bill. Costs can’t easily be passed on to the consumer, even if the consumer wants the extra service.
Dollars and sense
Trash collection in Walton County already costs about $7.8 million a year. Boosting recycling efforts will clearly require some additional financial investment, but who says we can’t get creative and find a way? We know the benefits: conserving our limited resources and materials, keeping our air and water cleaner, reducing the need for landfill space and more.
The 30A Company has already committed to this goal: We recently launched our new ‘dumpster diver’ clothing line, made from recycled plastic. Each shirt saves about eight plastic bottles from a landfill in the southeast. We also banned disposable water bottles from our 30A offices and sell a whole line of reusable drink containers.
But we know this is just a small start. Increasing our ability to reuse and recycle both at home and on vacation will have a significant impact on our environment and our lives. This effort will require tough discussion, creative thinking and dedication over the long haul, but let’s get it going. The only time to start is now.