- Pinellas County, FL has been recognized as having the state's highest recycling rate at 89% for 2015. This rate was verified by the state's Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) after the county submitted a report in April.
- The state's calculations also include construction and demolition debris and credits for renewable energy created from combustion. The county's traditional curbside and residential recycling rate was 52%.
- In 2014 the county's overall rate was 63.3%. This significant jump is attributed in part to more reported tonnage of construction and demolition debris. FDEP recently changed its methodology to include processed recycled concrete from roads and bridges.
As highlighted in a recent white paper, recycling rates can't be easily compared due to the different ways they're calculated. The method used by FDEP isn't often seen in the U.S., though in Europe some forms of waste-to-energy are counted as recycling if the technology meets certain criteria. Florida allows counties that recycle at least 50% of waste through methods other than creating renewable energy to count 1.25 tons of material for each megawatt-hour produced toward their diversion rates.
This energy is produced at the Pinellas County Resource Recovery Facility in St. Petersburg. The facility, which is run by Covanta, can process more than 3,000 tons of waste per day and powers up to 40,000 homes. About 26,000 tons of metal are also recovered on an annual basis. The state has recently become a center for innovative uses of residual ash as building materials in a number of counties.
The progress in Pinellas helped Florida reach an overall diversion rate of 54% in 2015, which has been steadily rising in recent years. The state aims to reach 60% diversion by January 2017 and 75% by 2020.