Mt. Lebanon sorts recycling ideas
Mt. Lebanon officials are weighing a carrot-or-stick approach to getting residents to recycle.
The commission on Monday heard three presentations on programs to enhance recycling, either by rewarding recyclers with gift cards, coupons or grants to favorite charities, or by switching to a “pay-as-you-throw” billing system that would charge residents based on the amount of garbage they throw out — but not for recycling or setting out compostable yard waste.
The commission is considering changes because its current trash and recycling contract with Waste Management Inc. expires at the end of the year.
The community's Environmental Sustainability Board recommended studying pay-as-you-throw in the hope that it would increase recycling, lower the cost of trash collection and make people who toss more pay more.
“I don't think I should be paying for other people's waste,” said resident Suzanne Stamatov.
Dan Gorske of Republic Services said Mt. Lebanon could be the first Pennsylvania community to sign up for Republic's Recycling Rewards program, which awards residents points for how many tons of recycling their neighborhoods or wards accumulate, then allows them to redeem points online or by phone for gift cards and coupons to local retailers and restaurants.
Points could be used to “vote” for how the company distributes about $12,000 in grants to nonprofits.
Lisa McKnight, representing Waste Management, said her company partnered with New York-based Recyclebank to create a similar program for 17 North Hills communities, which awards points for recycling, signing energy conservation pledges and buying environmentally friendly products.
At 40 cents per house per month, Waste Management's bid for a program to boost recycling was lower than Republic's proposal of $1.05 per house.
Lorin Meeder, environmental programs coordinator for Cranberry, said under that township's “pay-as-you-throw” garbage collection program, residents pay according to the size of their garbage cans. Separate cans for single-stream recycling and yard waste are collected free of charge, while extra garbage bags, appliances or bulky items such as furniture are picked up only if they carry prepaid stickers.
From 2004, when the program started, to 2012, landfill-bound trash in Cranberry went from 11,000 to 7,600 tons, with recycling rising from 1,100 to 3,000 tons in the same period, Meeder said.
Mt. Lebanon Commissioner Dave Brumfield said he would like to see the combined cost savings from pay-as-you-throw for the municipality and the average resident, because he was afraid such a program could be more expensive for homeowners or would be susceptible to cheaters.
No estimates on the cost of a pay-as-you-throw program for Mt. Lebanon were provided on Monday.
“I think the community should wait on pay-as-you-throw until more research has been done. ... It's a solution to a problem we don't have,” said Patrick Eberz, a member of the Environmental Sustainability Board and the sole vote on the seven-member board against such a program.
He said existing recycling promotion efforts such as a contest with Upper St. Clair last year have shown results.
Tom Kelley, director of public works, said even if the municipality wants a pay-as-you-throw or recycling initiative program, there is not enough time to implement it before a new trash and recycling contract is scheduled to take effect.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.