A year later, still no curbside recycling in Clay County. When will it return?

By Paul Ploumis

Curbside recycling in Clay County — suspended one year ago — stills seems unlikely to return anytime soon.

The county's waste contractor, Waste Management, needs to hire 11 commercial drivers in order to resume curbside recycling. When recycling was suspended Aug. 16, 2021, Waste Management was 10 drivers short.

The waste contractor has experienced the same labor shortages plaguing employers nationwide: the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortage of commercial drivers.

Turnover also remains a problem in a county where the number of drivers is limited to begin with. Waste Management has hired 21 people since recycling was suspended, but 17 have left.

Many residents have simply given up on recycling for the time being, rather than take their recyclables to drop-off sites.

“I end up throwing my recycle in with the trash because going to a drop-off site every week is determination and a lot of work, “ said Trevor Broadbridge, who lives in the Fleming Island Plantation development.

“Not having curbside recycle pickup is starting to feel normal, but I hope that WM can find drivers soon so that people will not have to waste time out of their day to go to a drop-off site,

Jack Hawley, who lives in Margaret’s Walk in Fleming Island, has a dual compartment bin in his kitchen, normally one for garbage and one for recycling. The recycling bin is missing currently.

“Our family removed the recycle bin because we do not recycle right now due to the curbside pickup suspension,” Hawley said. “It would be a good idea to have two trash bins though.”

Clay County's suspension now has far outlasted Duval County's. Duval suspended curbside recycling in October but restored it six months later.

Clay County commissioners in May considered three possible solutions for the recycling situation.

  • Abolish curbside recycling permanently and add two drop-off sites.
  • Implement recycling every other week, in addition to the weekly garbage day and separate yard waste day.
  • Maintain the current practice as Waste Management tries to hire more people.

Commissioners chose to stay the current course, saying that recycling every other week would confuse people unnecessarily. Giving up on recycling entirely is not an option right now, they said — although Waste Management offered to reduce its contract cost.

The waste hauler currently credits the county $133,000 a month to compensate for the lack of recycling. The company said it would add $35,000 a month to the credit if recycling were abolished.

County commissioners voted June 28 to return the amount paid for recycling to residents. The credit of $22.71 for recycling services from Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022, will be applied to 2022 property tax bills.

Meanwhile, Waste Management is offering $5,000 signing bonuses for new workers. The company also has boosted pay to $24 an hour, up from $16 an hour when recycling was suspended. Go here to apply.

Drop-off sites will remain open around the county, though some residents have complained that the bins are often full. Waste Management empties them every day except Sunday, the county says.

County officials stress that people need to follow recycling guidelines. Flatten all boxes, and do not place plastic bags in any of the bins.

These are the drop-off sites:

Established sites

  • Clay Hill Environmental Convenience Center, 5869 County Road 218, Middleburg.
  • Doctor's Inlet Environmental Convenience Center, 288 Sleepy Hollow Road, Middleburg.
  • Keystone Heights Environmental Convenience Center, 5505 County Road 214, Keystone Heights.
  • Long Bay Environmental Convenience Center, 1589 Long Bay Road, Middleburg.
  • Rosemary Hill Solid Waste Management Facility, 3545 Rosemary Hill Road, Green Cove Springs.

Temporary sites

  • Fleming Island Library, 1895 Town Center Blvd., Fleming Island.
  • Oakleaf Community Park, 3979 Plantation Oaks Blvd, Orange Park.
  • Ronnie Van Zant Park, 2760 Sandridge Road, Green Cove Springs.
  • Sunrise Park, 7933 Sunrise Blvd., Keystone Heights.
  • Walter Odum Park, 450 Parkwood Drive, Orange Park.
  • Former Kingsley Lake Volunteer Fire Station, 6343 Seminole St.
  • Omega Park, 4317 County Road 218, Middleburg.

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