Tampa Bay Trashes the Bag

Regional effort will combat recycling confusion and contamination

Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, City of Tampa, and City of St. Petersburg solid waste departments have partnered to provide information to residents about a universal problem - plastic bags in recycling.

Curbside and residential recycling systems are only designed to process certain items. Bagged recyclables aren't recycled because they can't be sorted by the recycling equipment. Plastic bags also tangle in the sorting equipment, which causes equipment damage, creates health and safety hazards for workers, reduces the amount of recyclables that can be recovered, and increases the cost of the recycling process.

The regional multimedia public education campaign launched April 17, just in time for Earth Day. A new bay-spanning video and co-branded webpage,, provides information about why people need to keep recycling bag-free no matter where they recycle in the Tampa Bay area - home, work, public venues, or collection centers.

Utilizing reusable bags is more eco-friendly than getting disposable plastic bags when shopping. For those who use plastic bags and can't return them to participating retailers for recycling, the good news is that all four governments use Waste-to-Energy facilities for trash disposal - turning garbage into renewable electricity.

This is the first time all the county and city solid waste departments have worked together on a single regional campaign. Since most people live their lives across regional boundaries providing one simple consistent message will make it easier for residents to understand recycling rules and will, hopefully, help them reduce contamination in the regional recycling stream.

Photo Information:Tossing recyclables in the cart loose and leaving plastic bags out helps improve recycling recovery at sorting centers.