Florida governor signs curbside recycling contamination bill

The law, regarding the management of contaminated recyclables in recycling contracts, goes into effect in October.

June 23, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed HB 73 into law after it received approval from the state’s top legislative officers and unanimous passage in both chambers early in 2020. The bill requires Florida counties and municipalities to address nonhazardous contamination in recyclables in contracts with haulers or material recovery facilities (MRFs). Under this  legislation, haulers are not required to transport items that are defined by the local community as “contaminated recycling materials,” and MRFs would not be required to process these materials.

While MRFs can handle some nonrecyclables, excessive or consistent contamination can generate additional costs related to sorting, processing, energy consumption and equipment repair or replacement. The law aims to reduce these costs and strengthen communication between communities and haulers or MRFs as they work to address the prominent issue of contamination in recyclables.

HB 73 requires that contracts between communities and haulers or MTFs include:

  • strategies and obligations of the county or municipality and the residential recycling collector to reduce the amount of contaminated recyclables being collected or processed; 
  • procedures for identifying, documenting, managing and rejecting residential recycling containers, truckloads, carts or bins that contain contaminated recyclables; 
  • remedies authorized to be used if a container, cart or bin contains contaminated recyclables; 
  • education and enforcement measures that will be used to reduce the amount of contaminated recyclables; and
  • a definition of the term "contaminated recyclable material" that is appropriate for the local community.

“The bill will help local governments, residential recycling collectors and material recovery facilities work together to reduce the amount of solid waste contamination in residential curbside recycling as part of the contracting process,” says Brandon Wright, vice president of communications and media relations at the National Waste & Recycling Association, Arlington, Virginia. “Solid waste contamination, aka garbage, in residential recycling bins causes valuable recyclable materials to be contaminated and increases the cost of recycling to cities and counties. This proposed change will improve recycling as well as help provide ‘clean’ and marketable recyclable material to end-users.”

This is the third time such legislation has been introduced in Florida in the past two years. While previous versions included various amendments, HB 73 did not.

“The bill was vetoed in the past because of unrelated amendments being added at the last minute. That is common in Florida when a bill has a broad title like ‘Environmental Regulations’,” Wright says. “This year—no amendments! The bill contained our recycling legislation and another section deals with rebuilding docks. The docks language had been agreed upon by all parties involved. Therefore, no controversial language, and the governor signed the bill.”

With the curbside recycling contamination bill signed, the hope is that it will help to strengthen contractual relationships between MRFs, haulers and communities. “By eliminating as much contamination as possible, hopefully it will lower cost,” Wright says.

He adds that contaminated material coming into a facility must be loaded onto a truck and hauled to a landfill, resulting in an estimated $1,000 per incident.

Overall, the bill aims to reduce the amount of contamination arriving at MRFs and, therefore, reduce costs for these facilities. “We believe the new law will help recyclers and MRFs get the cleanest materials possible and increase overall recycling rates,” Wright says.