Household recycling has undergone some major changes recently here in Lancaster, PA. Unsure about how these changes affect you and what types of materials you can leave in your green, curbside recycling bins? You’re not alone!
Most of us are already aware of the importance of recycling household waste products. Recycling saves energy and reduces the need for raw materials used in manufacturing, ensuring future generations have access to important natural resources and a clean environment. Recycling also creates jobs, employing close to a million people in the recycling industry in the U.S. alone.
Recent Changes in the Recycling Industry
In the past two years, however, there have been some big changes implemented around the U.S. when it comes to local recycling practices. You may remember seeing the news stories: China, the world’s largest importer of recycled materials, began scaling back the types of recyclables they would accept, citing contamination of materials as a big reason.
Chinese industry is also using many of its own resources now instead of importing them from abroad. The result of this is a decreased market for recyclable material and increased transportation and processing costs.
How This Affects Local Residents
This sea-change in the recycling industry has trickled down to the residential level as some items, previously ok to leave in curbside bins, are no longer being accepted for recycling and are now considered contaminants. Leaving these items in pickup bins now causes issues down the line when they need to be removed from the recycling stream at processing centers, adding costs and threatening the sustainability of the recycling program.
Here are the items you should not leave in your bins any longer: Newspaper, Styrofoam, plastic bags, yogurt cups, glossy magazines, bottle caps, cereal boxes, and takeout containers.
The good news is: many of these items can still be recycled by dropping them off at the three county recycling centers around Lancaster, which are open 24/7 for your convenience. You can search www.Earth911.com to find the centers near you that accept these items.
Local waste officials including the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) and haulers such as Penn Waste urge customers to concentrate on collecting the “Big 4” items for recycling: corrugated cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs with necks, metal food and beverage cans, and glass jars and bottles. These items can all be safely discarded in recycle bins to be picked up by haulers and transported to recycling centers.
“When in doubt, throw it out!”
Don’t feel too bad about putting some of the materials you used to recycle into the trash. In Lancaster county, much of the trash collected is converted into energy via a high-efficiency incineration process, creating power that goes back into the local energy grid. This ensures less waste ends up in landfills and instead turns into a resource. The LCSWMA has the capacity to process 400 tons of solid waste per day, which then powers 1 in 5 households in Lancaster. If you’re not sure whether an item is recyclable, the best thing to do is put it in the trash.