Hurricane Irma Debris Clean Up FAQ

Vegetative Debris Removal Progress and Schedule

  • The RED/PINK is the areas that the debris contractor has completed first pass and/or is currently working in.
  • The YELLOW is the areas that the debris contractor plans to move into within two weeks from today.
  • The BLUE is the areas that have been inspected and found to have no debris. Therefore, the debris contractor will not be going back to these zones.
  • The UNSHADED is the areas that the debris contractor will update each week. These areas are also where the county staff are concentrating our efforts to help with the debris removal. 

Debris Recovery Stats as of Jan. 16

  • Total loads collected: 49,349
  • Average size load: 50 cubic yards
  • Total cubic yards removed: 2,111,704 cubic yards

Polk County has scheduled the end of all countywide Hurricane Irma debris collection by contracted haulers by the end of this month. Debris needing to be hauled should now be curbside awaiting pickup. 

The final day for Hurricane Irma debris collection is Jan. 31. If the hurricane debris isn’t placed at the curbside for pickup by the time haulers make their final pass, the drivers will not return for a late pickup.

Debris should not be mixed, but separated by type, including vegetation (trees, limbs), construction and demolition (wood, fences, shingles), white goods (appliances), and bulky household items. All debris should be hurricane related. Debris piles should not encroach on roadway travel lanes, sidewalks or drainage swales. Piles of newly cut “green” routine yard waste, which includes Christmas trees, will not be collected by debris haulers.

Hurricane Irma Debris Clean Up FAQs

How much debris is in the county from Hurricane Irma?

Our initial estimate is about 2 million cubic yards of debris left behind by the storm. To visualize the amount, if condensed, it would cover 125 acres 10 feet high with vegetative debris.

What type of debris is being picked up?

Vegetation, construction and demolition debris (wood, fences, blocks, shingles), carpet and bulky household items

What is the timeline for pick up?

  • Phase 2: This phase, which began in November, consists of picking up several items, including construction debris, a second sweep of the county for vegetative debris and taking out trees and limbs that pose potential future dangers. Those limbs and trees include those that didn’t block roadways, or cause damage to homes that may have fallen over since the storm. Crews will cut out and remove those. This phase is estimated to last about 30-45 days days.
  • Phase 3: Household appliances like refrigerators, stoves and other large electrical items will be picked up during this third and final phase of pickup. There is not a clear estimated time of pickup for these items since the areas affected with this type of debris are limited.

Who is picking up the debris?

Polk County, with the exception of the City of Lakeland, has contracted with Crowder Gulf to clean up the county’s storm debris. Currently the company has trucks working throughout Polk County picking up yard debris.

Why is it taking so long?

To help expedite the hauling time the county, along with Crowder Gulf, has opened 10 debris dump sites. This eliminates long hauls for trucks, so drivers can get back into the community faster. Two more dump sites are in the works to be set up in the coming days.

Are there size requirements for curbside pickup?

There are no size requirements to place storm debris curbside. Move the debris to the public right-of-way, but do not place it on the roads. Crews will collect and haul the debris away. They will not go onto private property and must be able to reach the debris from the road.

Will the haulers collect from private roads?

Yes, the Polk County Board of County Commissioners voted in September to allow the county’s hauler to remove debris from private roads and gated communities.

If you live in a gated community or on a private road (your street sign is white, rather than green) and debris has not been collected, HOA officers or management companies must sign and return a “RIGHT OF ENTRY AND HOLD HARMLESS AGREEMENT FOR DEBRIS REMOVAL” form. The Right of Entry form may be printed from the website, and returned by email, regular mail or faxed to the county. For more information or questions please call (863) 535-2200 or email

Can you haul your debris yourself?

Yes, but the county's waiving of disposal fees has ended and customers will now need to pay.

Can you burn debris?

Yes. In unincorporated Polk County, you may burn yard waste, which is any vegetative debris such as grass clippings, brush, leaves, tree limbs and palm fronds. The yard waste must fit within an 8-foot diameter pile or in a non-combustible container. The fire must be ignited after 9 a.m. and extinguished one hour before sunset.

Piles larger than 8 feet in diameter need a permit from the Florida Forest Service. It is illegal to burn household garbage, treated lumber, plastics, rubber materials, tires, pesticides, paint and aerosol containers.

Burning should take place at least 25 feet away from your home, wildlands, brush or combustible structures; at least 50 feet away from paved public roads, and at least 150 feet away from other occupied buildings.

Who do residents contact for Debris Contractors Collection schedules/routes?

Contact the Storm Debris Hotline at (863) 451-3357.

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