Cranberry utilizes modern collection methods and recycling for monetary gains
By Rick Wills
Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
For an increasing number of municipalities across Pennsylvania, recycling is as good for the pocketbook as it is for the environment.
That's been the case in Cranberry, where modern collection methods and recycling programs have lowered collection fees for residents.
Other communities in the Pittsburgh region are implementing similar programs and having their bills go down.
By limiting how much goes into landfills and boosting totals of recycled goods, municipalities such as Cranberry have become eligible for state grants — either to operate recycling programs or to expand existing ones.
The state Department of Environmental Protection recently issued $17.8 million in recycling grants to 131 municipalities and counties for developing and implementing recycling programs.
Despite budget cuts for the DEP in recent years, the department maintained a robust recycling grant program, largely funded with fines the agency levies against companies found violating environmental regulations, said spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz.
“A lot of municipalities are cash-strapped, and there are grants that give them an opportunity to recycle,” she said.
In 2004, Cranberry became the first Southwestern Pennsylvania community to overhaul its waste collection system by collecting garbage and recycling using trucks that have devices that reach out, pick up garbage and recycling bins and empty them into the truck.
“It makes it much easier and safer. It's also lowered expenses, having one guy per truck instead of three. And it lowers insurance rates when workers are less likely to get injured,” said Lorin Meeder, environmental programs coordinator in Cranberry.
The results are impressive.
Nine years ago, about half of all Cranberry residents participated in recycling. Now 98 percent do.
The amount of waste the municipality sends to landfills was 7,619 tons last year, compared with 11,030 tons in 2004. The average amount recycled per person was 670 pounds last year, up from 115 pounds in 2004.
Nine years ago, Christmas trees weren't recycled in Cranberry. Last year, the township recycled more than 27 tons of them.
“Cranberry took a very hard look at how they could increase recycling, and it has saved the citizens money,” said Sheryl Kelly, recycling coordinator in Butler County.
Nearby Pine and Marshall followed Cranberry in 2006 with similar collection arrangements.
In ways, Cranberry is not typical of Butler County, which is largely rural and has only a few communities — Butler, Butler Township, Center, Adams, Buffalo and Cranberry — that the state requires to recycle because they have populations of more than 10,000.
Since 1992 the county has required that municipalities offer curbside recycling, Kelly said.
Recycled tonnage in the county rose from 107,121 in 2006 to 124,859 in 2009, the last year for which state figures are available.
Allegheny County had a similar increase.
From 2006 to 2009, recycled materials in Allegheny County increased from 319,393 tons to 470,308 tons.
In 2011, McCandless and Ohio Township together received an $800,000 state grant to start garbage and recycling collection program's similar to Cranberry's.
“It's saving us money. The fifth year of our contract in 2016 is cheaper than what we were paying two years ago,” Ohio Township manager John Sullivan said.
It also reduced how much is being sent to landfills.
In 2010, McCandless produced a monthly average of 801 tons of landfill trash each month. In 2012, the first full year under the new contract, the monthly average was 538 tons — 33 percent less.
From 2010 to 2012, the monthly average of recycling in McCandless increased from 180 tons per month to 240.3 tons. The jump in yard waste collections is more dramatic. Last year, 167.5 tons, on average, were collected each month in McCandless. In 2010, when yard waste was collected once a month, the monthly average was 20 tons.
McCandless and Ohio Township are not the first municipalities to get fully automated garbage collection.
Municipalities with automatic collection encourage residents to recycle as much as possible by not charging for it. However, residents pay more for larger trash bins — usually 35, 65 or 95 gallons.
“The industry is migrating to automated pickup. This is the way it's going to be done everywhere. We were a good candidate because we do not have much street parking,” said McCandless manager Toby Cordek.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at email@example.com.
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