Gainesville Zero Waste News

Breaking Up with Plastic

couple breaking up Deciding when to sever ties can be daunting, but the moment has arrived for each of us to confront the reality and minimize our plastic consumption. The proliferation of plastic waste is rapidly infiltrating our environment, with microplastics now being found in our bodies, and nanoplastics in the very air we breathe.

Breaking up hurts, but here are some painless ways we can get over our obsession with plastic:

  • Skip Plastic To-Go Items – When ordering takeout on your favorite app, be sure to indicate that you don’t require plastic cutlery or any of the other extras. The City of Gainesville has already enacted a Single-Use Plastic Food Accessories By Request Only ordinance, so restaurants should not be providing unnecessary items by default.
  • Breathe New Life Into Used Items – Have you ever been to a Fix-It Clinic? Repairing and learning to re-love old items reduces the generation of new plastic materials and delays their discard date. Skip cheap, flimsy plastic, and upcycle or fix something you already have.
  • Support Local Zero Waste Retailers – Our town is rich in bulk/refill shopping options, secondhand stores, and informal neighbor-to-neighbor online groups. These communities make it easy for you to participate in a circular economy and cut ties with plastic.
  • Embrace Reusable Cloth Shopping Bags – Single-use plastic bag bans are unfortunately forbidden in the state of Florida, so this is the route we’re left with. Remember to always bring your reusable cloth bags in with you when shopping. Leaving them at home or in the car denies these bags their purpose and the chance to contribute to our planet. If you don't possess reusable shopping bags yet, why delay?

Hold your head high, and ditch your toxic ex – plastic. If you’re having moments of weakness and thinking of going back, come to gainesvillefl.gov/ZeroWaste – and follow us on social media @ZeroWasteGNV on Facebook and Instagram – for support.

 

Recent Articles

Get Your Apartment Recycling On – Free Educational Signs!

apartment recycling station sign design As a part of the ongoing Zero Waste Initiative by the City of Gainesville, the Solid Waste Division is now providing complimentary recycling signs to Apartment and Condominium properties within the city limits. These newly printed signs aim to assist in educating tenants about accepted and non-accepted materials for recycling at collection stations. When posted, these signs will also meet the ordinance requirement for recycling educational signs in common areas where recyclables are collected.

These oversized signs measure 22 inches by 14 inches and are pre-printed with universal recycling messages suitable for both single-stream and dual-stream collection systems. The text on the signs is in both English and Spanish. Property staff will be responsible for posting the signs at each recycling collection station on their property.

If you are a property manager or owner interested in obtaining a set of these free signs, please contact the Solid Waste Division’s zero waste staff at waste@gainesvillefl.gov or call 352-334-2330. Act now, as these signs are only available while supplies last.

Get Ready for Compost Awareness Week

Making compost

Did you know the word “compost” is searched nearly twice as often as it was 10 years ago? You can find what everyone else is searching for during this year’s Compost Awareness Week, running from May 5th to May 11th.

Here are four accessible methods to get you composting now:

  • Backyard Composting – Lucky for you, the Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives provides free composting kits. Contact them to ask for your free wire roll, and get started today, right in your own backyard!
  • Local Community Drop off Spots – Gainesville has several convenient places for you to drop off your food waste for free: 4th Ave Food Park, NW 10th Ave (next to Working Food), UF’s Student Compost Cooperative, and UF’s Field and Fork farm. Choose a location closest to you, separate your food scraps at home, and drop them off at one of the sites, knowing your banana peels, apple cores, and coffee grounds are being put to good use by someone else.
  • Monthly Composting Workshops – The City of Gainesville Solid Waste Division is holding monthly composting workshops at different community gardens around town. Come, ask questions, get hands-on with the process, and walk away empowered to significantly reduce your household waste.
  • Curbside Collection Services – If the backyard isn’t an option, and you just can’t be bothered to go anywhere, contact Beaten Path Compost, the community composter, and they will pick up your food scraps from the curb. The small fee you pay helps create local green jobs.

Composting can lead to a lifetime of positive change, so let Compost Awareness Week be your first step on a path to zero waste.

Learn more about composting atgainesvillefl.gov/Recycle.

Requesting a Zero Waste Presentation

Request ZW Presentation square.png

Do you feel confused by the Zero Waste ordinances? Do you have a business within the City limits and want to ensure you’re in compliance?

If you answered yes to either of these, head to our website, and book a Zero Waste presentation today! Our dedicated staff can accommodate your schedule and tailor their presentations to your exact needs.

Here are some examples of what you can expect:

  • Multifamily Property owners or managers – Request a presentation for your staff or tenants to better understand the Road to Zero Waste, including proper recycling methods, the Lease Transition Plan, the Indoor Recycle Storage Container requirement, and more.
  • Food service establishment owners or managers – Request a presentation to learn about the single-use plastic straw & accessory ban, food waste collection and diversion, or general waste reduction tips.
  • Municipal departments – As the Zero Waste ordinances help our businesses divert precious materials from the landfill, we have the chance to lead by example. The Zero Waste team can help you set up proper office recycling stations, food waste diversion stations, and provide training for better use of all our cost saving and waste reducing services.
  • Civic groups or school clubs –Here’s your chance to get your group together for a fun and memorable educational experience. Learn about composting, recycling, and other waste diversion methods.

The Zero Waste team is here to help everyone – residents, business owners, and our municipal colleagues – as we all move toward the goal of the City of Gainesville reaching Zero Waste by 2040! We want to help equip your team with the tools they need to implement more sustainable actions in their day to day operations.

For more information and to request a presentation, please visit gainesvillefl.gov/ZeroWaste.

Earth Day: Grounds for Celebration

accepted recyclables Earth Day, always held on April 22nd, is a great chance to rejoice in all that our Earth gives us: food, shelter, water – literally everything we use daily. This holiday gives us a chance to consider what it means to be a good steward of those resources. What started as an educational campaign in the 1970’s has grown to a worldwide holiday, celebrated by more than a billion people in nearly every country around the globe.

This year, let’s look at some of our favorite ways to honor the Earth on this special day:

Commit to composting your kitchen waste – did you know your choices in the kitchen can have a huge impact? Keeping your food waste (banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.) out of the landfill greatly reduces methane emissions and lets gardeners reduce their reliance on fertilizers. Find out how to compost at gainesvillefl.gov/Recycle.

Brush up on your local recycling regulations – recycling is a great way to show direct support for the resources of our land. Extracting materials from underground is a polluting, energy-intensive process. By recycling right, you can prolong the usefulness of those materials and be a little gentler on our environment. Recycling info is at gainesvillefl.gov/WhatCanBeRecycled.

Try grounding – have you taken your shoes off today? When’s the last time you walked around barefoot and felt the grass between your toes? According to NIH research, by not grounding you may be missing out on improved sleep, reduced stress, and faster healing.

Join a community garden – there’s no greater satisfaction then enjoying fruits or veggies you lovingly planted and cultivated yourself. Join one of Gainesville’s 12 community gardens, and start reconnecting with the gifts of the Earth. Growing your own food not only fosters self-reliance but also allows you to enjoy fresh produce without packaging.

The first Earth Day celebrations 50 years ago were all about spreading awareness of the perils of unchecked industrial growth and its adverse impacts on all of us, humans and animals, big and small. This year, as you wish friends and family a Happy Earth Day, take the opportunity to discuss what type of future they’d like to live in and how we can all move toward a sustainable world together.

The Road to Zero Waste: Unpacking Recycling Ordinances for Multi-Family Properties

accepted recyclables On the road to Zero Waste, let’s pull over at a rest stop to stretch our legs and briefly review two recycling ordinances for apartment and condo properties in the City of Gainesville.

1. Recycling Collection – By ordinance, all Multi-Family properties must establish a recycling program that includes recycling of Corrugated Cardboard, Paperboard, Newspaper & Magazines, Office Paper, Metal Cans, Glass Bottles & Jars, and Plastic Bottles, Jugs & Jars.

2. Indoor Recycle Storage Containers – By ordinance, all Multi-Family properties must provide at least one indoor recycle storage container per unit. The indoor bins or bags provide tenants with an easy way to separate and transport their recyclables, and these containers should be supplied to each unit by your landlord or property management team.Indoor recycle storage container.jpg

If you’re residing at a property missing either (or both) 1 & 2 above here’s what you can do:

• Ask your landlord or property management team about recycling services.

• Contact the City of Gainesville Solid Waste Division at waste@gainesvillefl.gov.

On our journey toward achieving Zero Waste, understanding and adhering to recycling ordinances for multi-family properties play a crucial role. By ensuring that recycling programs are established and accessible within our communities, we reduce our environmental footprint and preserve precious resources for future generations. Remember, every action counts, whether it's advocating for proper recycling infrastructure or simply participating in recycling programs at our residences.

For a more detailed breakdown of all our wonderful Zero Waste Ordinances, please visit gainesvillefl.gov/ZeroWaste.

Food Waste Prevention Week, April 1-7

Zero Waste Week Logo 2024, March 24th to March 30th You’re way too smart to waste food and money – right? However, studies show that the average American household wastes up to 35% of the food they buy annually. With Food Waste Prevention Week starting April 1st, it’s a great time to put this issue on the menu. Let’s raise awareness and get our appetites going for some satisfying solutions.

Food Waste Prevention Facts:

  • Save Money – Simply by eating the oldest food in your fridge first, freezing leftovers, and not overbuying at the grocery, a family of four can save up to $1,600 a year.
  • Conserve Resources – The land, water, energy, and human labor used in food production are incredibly valuable. Growing, packaging, and processing food requires a lot of energy, with food transportation alone accounting for the emission of 3.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
  • Enhance Food Security – Safe and nutritious food that gets discarded could instead be utilized to feed those in need, like the 2.3 million Floridians facing hunger – including more than 600,000 children. Let’s bolster food security and help our hungry neighbors.
  • Foster Mindfulness – Making rash grocery purchases, such as buying new items when the same items are already in our fridge, increases food waste. Focusing on reducing waste has the added benefit of making us more aware of our actions and overall better lifestyle choices.

We hope your mouths are watering for all the ways we can reduce waste, save money, and take better care of our resources during Food Waste Prevention Week and beyond!

For more info and local events, visit FoodWastePreventionWeek.com.

Zero Waste Week 2024: March 24th – 30th

Zero Waste Week Logo 2024, March 24th to March 30th Newer concepts require more time to sink in, so we are delighted to see Zero Waste Week 2024 – an entire week devoted to fun, thought-provoking, and empowering activities, all leading up to the International Day of Zero Waste, March 30th.

We’ll be taking a deep dive into all things waste all week long, but here are three special dates to circle on your calendar:

  • Sunday, 3/24 – Fix-it Clinic. Got a broken lamp or small appliance? Don’t throw that away yet – you can still fix it! Holes in your clothes? Those can be mended. Head to the Repurpose Project, and let the volunteers show you how to go beyond just the three R's and incorporate Repair into your waste reduction journey.
  • Wednesday, 3/27 – Happy Hour Meetup at Loosey’s Downtown Gainesville. This is a great chance to learn, listen, get all the latest Zero Waste updates in a casual setting, and meet folks from the City of Gainesville, Alachua County, local grassroots organization Zero Waste Gainesville, and local businesses championing sustainability.
  • Thursday, 3/28 – Free Learn to Compost Class. Learn how to turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Our expert instructors will guide you through the process step by step. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this workshop is perfect for anyone looking to reduce waste and improve their soil health. Don't miss out on this opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment! Registration is required.
  • Saturday, 3/30 – Coordinated Thrift Store Sales for the International Day of Zero Waste. Buying items secondhand is a great way to move toward a Zero Waste world. After all, the materials have already been extracted from the environment, processed, shipped, and packaged, and now that secondhand treasure is just waiting for you to give it a second life. Shop at one of Gainesville’s many thrift stores and enjoy even greater savings in honor of the International Day of Zero Waste.

Other events to look forward to in the week include days of support for local businesses, local legislative updates, and so much more.

Want to keep the celebration going? Get even more at gainesvillefl.gov/ZeroWaste.

Dump the Cups – Not Recyclable

plastic and paper drinking cups with red crossed out circle No matter the type - paper, plastic, foam, blue, brown, red, clear, coffee, or smoothie - disposable cups are not accepted for recycling.

Many disposable cups are made from a combination of materials, typically paper or cardboard coated with a layer of plastic or wax, to make them waterproof. The complex makeup of these cups necessitates specialized machinery and processes, which are not widely available.

The remnants of liquid or food left in disposable cups can contaminate other good recyclables in the mix, rendering that material less suitable for recycling. Contamination not only reduces the quality of recycled materials but also increases the cost and energy required to clean and process them.

One solution to avoiding disposable is to bring your own refillable mug or cup when frequenting establishments that support this practice. Notably, Starbucks recently introduced a policy allowing customers to use reusable cups. Be sure to let the barista at the counter or drive-thru know you brought your personal cup before they start preparing your beverage.

Get Your Apartment Recycling On – Free Educational Signs!

apartment recycling station sign design As a part of the ongoing Zero Waste Initiative by the City of Gainesville, the Solid Waste Division is now providing complimentary recycling signs to Apartment and Condominium properties within the city limits. These newly printed signs aim to assist in educating tenants about accepted and non-accepted materials for recycling at collection stations. When posted, these signs will also meet the ordinance requirement for recycling educational signs in common areas where recyclables are collected.

These oversized signs measure 22 inches by 14 inches and are pre-printed with universal recycling messages suitable for both single-stream and dual-stream collection systems. The text on the signs is in both English and Spanish. Property staff will be responsible for posting the signs at each recycling collection station on their property.

If you are a property manager or owner interested in obtaining a set of these free signs, please contact the Solid Waste Division’s zero waste staff at waste@gainesvillefl.gov or call 352-334-2330. Act now, as these signs are only available while supplies last.

Unraveling the Confusion Around Recycling Plastics

various recyclable plastic bottles Don’t worry - it’s not just you. Pretty much everyone is a little unsure which plastic items are accepted for recycling and which are not. However, if you can follow the two rules below, recycling plastics will be a breeze.

  1. Ignore the recycling symbol on plastic items. These codes are basically meaningless when it comes to determining the recyclability of an item.
  2. Ask yourself – “Is this plastic item a Bottle, Jug, Jar, or Tub?” If Yes, it is accepted. If No, don’t put it in with your other recyclables.

Even with the best intentions, individuals unknowingly contaminate the recycling stream by placing unaccepted plastics in with otherwise good recyclables.

Plastic items not accepted for recycling includes: plastic bags, pens, stretch-wrap, cups, tubes, foam, utensils, plastic egg cartons, microwavable trays, plant pots, plastic mailing envelopes, bubble wrap, toys, plastic coat hangers, and clamshell containers (such as deli, berry and salad containers). These plastics are of a lower grade material or are often too difficult to process for recycling.

For a complete list of accepted recyclables, visit gainesvillefl.gov/WhatCanBeRecycled. To search the Zero Waste Wizard for information on where you might be able to recycle other materials, go to gainesvillefl.gov/WasteWizard.

The Magic of the Zero Waste Wizard

graphic of a wizard in gray cloke with a wand and laptop Don’t know what to do with all your extra empty potion jars, broken staffs, and dusty witches’ hats lying around? Simply, visit gainesvillefl.gov/WasteWizard and ask your friendly Zero Waste Wizard to concoct a spell of responsible waste disposal!

The Zero Waste Wizard is the most reliable, up-to-date means for getting locally focused information on recycling, disposal, and reuse. City staff is constantly hitting the books at the School of Wizardry to keep the Zero Waste Wizard current, using information supplied mainly by app users like you.

In addition to answering crucial questions like “Is this recyclable?” a peek into the crystal ball will tell you everything from where to repair items, donate household goods, or find local scrap metal professionals.

While we think the Waste Wizard possesses all the answers, this Sorcerer of Sorting is also humble, so if you ask a question that doesn’t yet have an answer, you can suggest the addition of new items to the database of zero waste knowledge.

When you want to vanquish the dreaded foes of waste, clutter, and junk, the Zero Waste Wizard will cast a spell of all-knowing and all-seeing, giving you the answers you seek. In a world of darkness and uncertainty – “What do I do with all this old stuff?!” – let gainesvillefl.gov/WasteWizard light the way forward!

Catalog of Previous Articles