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Keep Lee Plastic Free effort making strides across Lee County

May 22, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Six months into its new Keep Lee Plastic Free campaign, Lee County Solid Waste is seeing improvement, with fewer plastic bags at curbside.

Lee County Solid Waste Division spokesperson Molly Schweers said they have seen a big difference since introducing the campaign.

"We started to see more yard waste in paper, and not in plastic, which is encouraging," she said.

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Yard waste is sent into a big tub grinder, a huge disposal, and turned into shredded mulch, which is available for the community. If yard waste is put at the curb in plastic bags it cannot be converted into mulch, or compost.


Schweers said in the solid waste business, they are constantly looking to find ways to use material instead of sending it to final disposal.

"We are trying to divert it from final disposal," she said. "If we get yard waste loose in a tub and paper bag, we can shred that material into mulch or compost. When we get yard waste in plastic bags, that requires hand separation and hand opening of the bags."

Schweers said about 10,000 tons of yard waste is presented in plastic, which is unusable.

"It's a significant amount of material," she said.

When the yard waste comes in plastic bags it is either sent to the Waste Energy Plant to be burned if they have room, or it is taken out to the landfill to be buried.

"Both of those are final disposal. Neither of those options have to happen," Schweers said, adding that they can still use the material if they get it in paper bags, or loose in a garbage can. "Just use a different type of bag, or don't use a bag at all."

She said they tested yard waste in paper bags, one entact, and one torn in half, and all of it decomposed completely.

"We don't have to segregate it," Schweers said.

Yard waste includes grass clippings, tree limbs and branches, palm fronds, leaves, fallen fruit and dead plants and flowers. Palm fronds can be left at the curb loose, but all other yard waste should be bundled and tied with cotton string, something that will decompose.

The yard waste that is turned into mulch is available at five locations around the county for people to pick up, free of charge. She said it's a course mulch that can be used as cover, or for trees to preserve moisture. Compost is also available, for a fee, which will help improve the soil.

"Part of our ongoing effort is to maximize the use of the community's material," she said. "We are just raising awareness that it is a little step they can do to help keep the community cleaner and minimize the amount of material required for final disposal."

The mulch is available at Lehigh Acres Community Park, 1400 W. Fifth St.; North Fort Myers Community Park, 2000 N. Recreation Park Way and 6090 Masters Landing Drive, St. James City.

OrganicLee compost can be purchased at the Resource Recovery Facility on 10500 Buckingham Road and the Topaz Court Solid Waste Annex on 6441 Topaz Court in Fort Myers.

Schweers said the only material that should be bagged in plastic is garbage. She said garbage should be contained because it is a health and safety issue.

"Bag the stinky stuff and the rest really doesn't need to be wrapped up in plastic," Schweers said of recyclables and yard waste.



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