Christmas offers opportunity for recycling

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 10:07 p.m.

Wendy DeOre and her teenage daughter, Kaitie, left a Target store in McCandless with rolls of wrapping paper on Friday.

Though many wrapping papers can't be recycled, the resident of Dunbar in Fayette County said her family tries to recycle when possible.

“I just don't like the idea of using something once and then throwing it away,” said DeOre, 43, who said trash haulers don't offer curbside recycling pickup in her community.

Nationwide, curbs in residential neighborhoods will be piled high with discarded packaging, cardboard boxes, wrapping paper and other remnants of the winter holiday season during the next few weeks. Though Americans recycle more than ever, they waste incredible amounts of resources, environmental experts said.

From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, the amount of household waste in the United States can increase by 25 percent, from 4 million tons to 5 million tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

About 5 million tons of food will be wasted between Thanksgiving and the end of 2013, according to Food Tank, a Chicago-based policy group.

“Waste generally is seasonal … both in terms of quantity and composition,” said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist and director of the solid waste program at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York.

Recycling benefits the environment by reducing what goes into landfills — and it benefits trash haulers who sell aluminum cans, plastic bottles and glass.

Houston-based Waste Management Inc. and Phoenix-based Republic Services Inc., parent company of Allied Waste, are the largest and second-largest hauling companies in the country, respectively.

Republic Services provides trash and recycling collection service to 28 municipalities in Western Pennsylvania, covering about 100,000 homes each week, spokesman Russ Knocke said. The company has four landfills in the state, including one in Imperial.

During this season, “as much as 80 percent of what is thrown out could be recycled or reused,” Knocke said.

Tom Runzo, 56, of Franklin Park is adamant that no one in his household waste food. “Anything that's in the refrigerator gets chopped up and put in soups. That's the Italian way.”

A 1988 state law mandated that towns with more than 5,000 residents offer curbside recycling by September 1991. Participation is growing as more communities offer single-stream recycling, which allows people to put all recyclables in the same bin without sorting, said Lisa Kasianowitz, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

From 2009 to 2011, annual recycling in Pennsylvania increased 9.7 percent to 5.85 million tons, the DEP said.

“Most people want to recycle,” said Ed Vogel, vice president of Vogel Disposal Service Inc., a Mars-based waste hauler that owns Seneca Landfill in Jackson. In rural communities that don't require curbside recycling, Vogel offers it anyway, and customer participation ranges between 75 and 80 percent, he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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