Single-stream recycling in Sarasota County begins Monday

Beginning Monday, residents of the unincorporated parts of Sarasota County can begin placing cans, bottles and newspapers into those big, rolling recycle bins.

These larger containers, meant to hold all recyclable items mingled together, started showing up a few months ago, but you couldn’t start filling them right away.

Before you start saving the planet, there are a few rules to keep in mind.

Because the two main culprits that contaminate the single-stream process are plastic bags and gooey pizza boxes, residents are asked to be especially vigilant about such items — along with anything else wet or tangly that can gum up the works at a recycling plant.

Keep the bin three feet from any mailboxes, fire hydrants, trees, cars or other cans when placed at the curb. The recycling trucks will use a robotic arm to lift and dump the materials.

The items placed in the previous red and blue bins will no longer be collected. Yard waste and other debris is not to be placed in the new carts.

You can review these guidelines, get your questions answered and see a map of cart delivery dates by going to the county website,, and clicking on “Sarasota County Recycles” under the government tab.

The city of Sarasota switched to single-stream recycling — with items sorted at the facility instead of in the home — in April, and saw an immediate surge in participation. The latest figures from November, according to city spokesperson Jason Bartolone, suggest that the improvement is holding steady: over 374 tons of recyclables were collected that month, compared to 232 tons a year earlier.

That represents a 35% increase in solid waste diverted from the landfill. It won’t necessarily translate into a similar volume for the county, because recycling habits aren’t uniform across all neighborhoods.

This uptick in household buy-in is the main reason cited by local governments to make the costly switch to new carts and trucks. Research has shown that transferring the finicky task of recyclable sorting from homeowners to conveyor belts and optical scanners can overcome whatever reservations or avoidance some people feel about taking the time to recycle rather than toss.