The recycling centers were closed recently as the government moved to shield its workforce from the spread of COVID-19, the serious respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — Walton County officials are hoping that the second time is the charm as they urge people not to drop off their recyclables — much less their household garbage — at the temporarily inoperative recycling collection sites concentrated in the south end of the county.

The recycling centers were closed recently as the government moved to shield its workforce from the spread of COVID-19, the serious respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. In addition to the personnel who transport the recycling collection trailers to and from collection sites, the county is no longer using the inmate workers who had sorted the recyclables, according to Louis Svehla, the county’s public information manager.

However, after the county initially announced the suspension of recycling services, and removed the recycling trailers from the collection sites, people continued to bring their recyclables — and, in some cases, their household garbage — to the collection sites.

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In light of that circumstance, the county sent out a second notice on Wednesday.

“Over the past several days, we have had issues with illegal dumping at the county sites that used to house the recycling trailers,” the notice reads in part.

“It is important for us over the next several weeks to come together and work together through these difficult times,” the notice continues. “As soon as this (the ongoing efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19) passes, we will be able to get these types of programs back online and reinstate our recycling program.”

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In the meantime, the county is asking people who are recycling the allowable materials — plastic bottles, aluminum drink cans, newspapers, phone books and cleaned cardboard — to simply store those items at their homes until the recycling program is reinstated.

According to Svehla, the county has received some pushback from residents who are reluctant to store their recyclables at home. But, Svehla suggested, proper cleaning of recyclables, such as washing out recyclable bottles, should address any of those concerns.

And, Svehla added, people concerned about storing their recyclables can include them in their regular trash (from which they won’t be recycled) to keep from storing them.

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“The illegal dumping of items, recyclable or not, causes more problems than it solves,” the county’s latest notice on the suspension of the recycling program notes.

Among those problems, Svehla said, is the potential creation of breeding grounds for mosquitoes in recyclable items or household garbage where water could collect.

Also, Svehla noted, leaving recyclables or garbage at the collection sites could create problems with trash being blown across the landscape.

Halting the recycling program was a difficult decision for the county commission, according to Svehla.

“It was not something the board wanted to do,” Svehla said. But, he added, while the program is suspended, “we’re asking people to really help us.”

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