Recycling pays off for North Hills residents
Some North Hills residents can reap rewards based on how they throw away their trash.
Waste Management Inc. and the North Hills Council of Governments are offering a recycling program from a New York-based company, Recyclebank, in which residents in seven towns can accrue points to redeem for restaurant and store discounts.
“It's a win-win. By recycling more, they get more points. And by recycling more, the environment benefits,” O'Hara Manager Julie A. Jakubec said.
The rewards-for-recycling program is one of the initiatives that towns nationwide are using to incentivize residents and businesses to recycle more waste and send less trash to landfills, environmental experts said.
Another program, pay-as-you-throw, encourages residents to throw away less garbage by charging higher waste-hauling fees for larger trash containers or requiring them to buy special tags or trash bags, while charging less or nothing for recycling household materials or yard waste.
“As waste is reduced, all of that tonnage equates to fuel savings and pollution savings if you think about it being trucked around,” said Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, a Downtown-based environmental advocacy group.
Environmental experts note, however, that unlike pay-as-you-throw programs, Recyclebank doesn't discourage consumption and waste.
Through Recyclebank, residents earn points based on the amount of recycling they do as a town. For the seven North Hills municipalities participating in Recyclebank, Waste Management will weigh the tonnage weekly, said Mike Christ, public sector representative for Houston-based Waste Management.
In addition to O'Hara, other participating towns are Bradford Woods, Etna, Hampton, Indiana Township, Millvale and Ross.
People who register for Recylebank accounts at www.recyclebank.com/wm receive points that they can will redeem at Bed Bath & Beyond, Dick's Sporting Goods, Buca di Beppo restaurants and other businesses.
On average, Recyclebank members earn $165 in rewards annually, the company said.
Ross resident Stacy Uhl, 48, said she recycles as much as possible. She plans to participate in Recyclebank, but said a different type of discount would be better.
“How about you participate, and you get a discount on your Waste Management bill?” she asked.
Good for business
Last year, more than 70 communities that contract with Waste Management for trash collection debuted Recyclebank. The seven North Hills communities are the first in Western Pennsylvania to participate.
Recylebank costs are included in Waste Management's base fee of $16.49 a month, which is cheaper than the fee under a prior contract, said Wayne Roller, executive director of the North Hills COG.
Waste haulers benefit from recycling incentives by selling recycled materials. In 2012, Waste Management earned $1.36 billion from collecting and selling recyclables.
At many of its landfills, the company runs landfill gas-to-energy programs, which take methane from decomposing trash and convert it to energy that is sold to energy companies, said Erika Deyarmin, spokeswoman for Waste Management, the largest recycling services provider nationwide.
“We look at waste now as more of a resource,” she said.
Waste Management processed 12 million tons of recyclables last year and wants to increase that to 20 million tons by 2020. In February, the company acquired Greenstar Recycling, a Houston-based recycling processor with a location in Neville Island. Greenstar processes 1.5 million to 2 million tons annually.
Recyclables from almost all of Western Pennsylvania are sorted and processed at the Neville site, said Scott Dellinger, municipal recycling and diversion manager.
‘Convenience and consistency'
O'Hara has increased its recycling significantly because the township expanded its list of what can be recycled, and provides more education, Jakubec said.
From 2007 to 2012, O'Hara's residential and commercial recycling increased 92 percent to 3,349.6 tons, and Recyclebank likely will drive the numbers up more, she said.
Cranberry started a pay-as-you-throw program, Collection Connection, in 2005 in part because some residents had been dumping grass clippings illegally in vacant lots and storm drains and residents were using a variety of trash haulers, township Manager Jerry Andree said.
With Collection Connection, the township chose Waste Management as the hauler for all residents and now requires residents to pay $15.64 to $16.82 monthly based on the size of the trash containers — 32-, 64- or 96-gallon bins — they put at the curb.
To throw away trash that doesn't fit into a bin, a tag must be purchased, but there are no additional fees or limits for recycling, Andree said.
Though pay-as-you-throw initially was met with some resistance, Cranberry now has one of the highest rates in the nation for recycling, 40 percent, Andree said.
One reason for the program's success is its ease of use. Residents throw recyclables into one container, to be sorted later.
“The key is convenience and consistency,” Andree said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.