Lee County Tops in Recycling

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recycle sign
Photo: Bill Smith

Lee County is known for its natural beauty, and area residents aim to keep it that way. That’s why it’s not too surprising that the county tops the state when it comes to recycling.

As a whole, Lee County residents recycled about 1.8 million tons of waste last year. That’s a recycling rate of about 80-percent, and easily pushes the county to the top of the list for the State of Florida.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection tracks progress across the state. The goal was 75-percent by 2020, and just three counties, including Lee County, made or surpassed that goal.

Local leaders credit the strong participation of area residents and businesses. For residents, the numbers primarily come from curbside recycling.

Businesses recycling is also tracked, including items such as yard waste, cardboard, construction debris and scrap metal. Lee County also benefits from garbage, which is then produced into energy at a plant in Buckingham. 

In 2019 alone, Lee County residents recycled the equivalent of 138 football fields, stacked 70 feet high. Another way to visualize that would be recycling enough material to reach the highest point of the Sanibel Causeway Bridge.

The previous year, the county recycled 1.5 million tons, or enough to fill 107 football fields. While Lee County also surpassed the state’s goal last year, it tied that year with Charlotte County to reach a 77-percent recycling rate.

Florida first began tracking recycling by county in 2000. Since then, Lee County has come out on the top of the list five times.

Of course, not everything can be recycled the same way. For instance, plastic bags can’t go into curbside recycling bins, but some stores do collect them. The county does, however, collect most paper, metal cans and cardboard. It also collects certain plastic and glass containers, bottles and jars.