Nathan Crabbe: Gainesville commission passing policies to reduce waste – Gainesville Sun

The Gainesville City Commission is on the verge of approving a waste-reduction plan that one commissioner calls the biggest changes of their kind since the city started its recycling program. 

But reaching the city’s zero-waste goal will also require residents to act on their own to reduce the trash they produce. Thankfully, some residents are already doing their part. 

The commission voted May 5 to move forward with three measures aimed at cutting down on the waste generated in the city. Commissioners are scheduled to take a second and final vote at their meeting Thursday.

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The measures include new requirements for grocery stores and restaurants to donate unsold food to pantries or turn it into compost instead of sending it to the landfill. Apartment complex owners would be required to provide space for recycling and have a plan to prevent items left behind by tenants, such as furniture, from ending up in the landfill. Pharmacies would be required to collect unused prescription drugs.

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said the policies were the most progressive of their kind in the Southeast and the most significant waste-reduction changes made in decades in Gainesville. 

“This is the biggest thing that’s been done since the city started recycling,” Hayes-Santos said.

Hayes-Santos has spearheaded the waste-reduction effort since being elected in 2015. Commissioners subsequently passed a series of measures, including a pledge for the city to reach 90% of a zero-waste goal by 2040. A Zero Waste Subcommittee met regularly for nearly two years to develop the changes now being considered. 

An expansion of the city’s residential composting program, currently a pilot program serving about 200 homes, is also planned. After I wrote May 5 about that part of the plan, and my family’s participation in the pilot program, a reader contacted me to say he was disappointed by an omission in the piece.

Jonathan Coron, a wellness educator in Gainesville, said there are many local residents composting on their own and information should be provided to encourage others to do the same. Coron is among residents who are composting, and he kindly allowed me to visit his home last month to see all the steps he’s taking to keep garbage out of the landfill.

His backyard contains a number of re-used items, such as an old clothes drier drum used as an outdoor work table and an old air-conditioning base that provided the foundation for a fire pit. The fence around his compost pile is even made with re-used materials: metal from old political signs.

Coron provided me with a composting lesson, saying there are pamphlets provided by the city and websites to guide homeowners who want to compost on their own.  

“Everybody has to do their part who can,” he said. 

Groups such as Zero Waste Gainesville provide online information on composting and other ways to reduce waste, along with citing the environmental benefits they provide (  The Repurpose Project ( and “Buy Nothing” Facebook groups are among the ways to find new users for old items instead of throwing them in the trash.

The city’s public works department has a website ( that includes a searchable recycling guide that helps residents and businesses find local options to recycle, donate, compost, resell, repair and properly dispose of various unwanted materials. The site shows the extent and limits of recycling: While there are outlets for numerous items, some materials such as the plastic containers that hold berries currently aren’t accepted in curbside recycling or at drop-off centers.

Gainesville has an opportunity to distinguish itself as a zero-waste city through government policies and programs that expand recycling options, while also helping to encourage the establishment of businesses that specialize in developing new uses for waste. Email me at with any notable waste-reduction efforts that would be worth highlighting in a future column.

All of us should do our part to make these efforts successful and reduce the trash we produce. 

Nathan Crabbe is The Sun’s opinion and engagement editor. Follow him on social media at and

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