No yard waste will be accepted in plastic bags as of May 1 in unincorporated areas of Sarasota County, county staff reminding the public

Paper bags, reusable containers and bundles to be accepted

 As of May 1, yard waste no longer will be accepted in plastic bags put out by Sarasota County Solid Waste Department customers, county staff is reminding the public.

Using the tag line “Leaf It Out!” county staff has been working to let the public know about this change, which the county commissioners approved on a 4-1 vote on Nov. 15, 2022. (Then-Commissioner Christian Ziegler cast the “No” vote, but he offered no reason for that action.)

During a discussion with the board members in July 2022, Brian Usher, director of the Solid Waste Department, showed them a slide that said the county has to pay for the manual emptying of yard waste out of plastic bags at the landfill before the materials can be processed for mulch or composting purposes.

In the 2021 fiscal year, the slide added, “[T]he equivalent of more than 6.4 million 39-gallon, heavy-duty plastic garbage bags of yard waste were opened by hand.” During the 2022 fiscal year — which ended on Sept. 30, 2022 — staff anticipated a total expanse of more than $300,000 for that manual labor, the slide noted.

Responses to a county survey undertaken last year showed that more than 90% of the county’s customers readily would support the elimination of the use of plastic bags, Usher said during his presentation.

When asked if people would pay the county more to continue using the plastic bags, Usher reported that 87% of the respondents said they would not.

In a recent news release about the Leaf it Out! public education campaign, staff pointed out that the change will “increase sustainability and curb costs.”

During a Facebook Live interview conducted by county Media Relations Officer Brianne Lorenz, Wendi Crisp, solid waste coordinator for the county, explained that, as of May 1, customers should put yard waste in paper bags, reusable containers or in bundles. The materials must be property prepared, as well, Crisp added.

Each container, bag or bundle should weigh less than 40 pounds, Crisp said, and no item may be more than 4 feet long or larger than 16 inches in diameter.

Through April 28, “residents who prepare yard waste in plastic bags will receive an informational door hanger with a reminder that plastic bags will no longer be accepted as of May 1,” a county news release points out.

After May 1, Crisp told Lorenz, any yard waste placed in plastic bags at the curb will be tagged with information about the new policy.

To learn more about the change, read this FAQ on or call 311.