Penn Hills residents warned to avoid contaminating recyclables
Penn Hills’ contracted waste service company is cracking down on contaminated recyclables.
Republic Services sent a letter to the municipality saying it will be paying close attention to what residents are putting in their bins.
“Residents may have service delayed or not occur if unacceptable levels of contamination are inside the recycling container,” said the letter.
Republic’s letter said even one contaminated item — such as grease found on pizza boxes or shattered glass — can come into contact with others, rendering the entire bin of recyclables unusable.
“The answer for residents may be that if you have doubts about what you are putting into a recycling bin, you may want to just put it into a garbage can instead,” Penn Hills Manager Scott Andrejchak said.
The move comes after Republic said in January it no longer will pick up certain plastics, metals and glass. Republic still will pick up plastics No. 1 and 2, cardboard, papers, aluminum and steel cans, among other items.
Republic has said the changes are because China, one of the U.S.’s largest exporters of recyclables, tightened rules on what it would accept.
Instead of picking up recyclables it determines are contaminated, the company will leave the bin behind and tag it with instructions on how to properly recycle.
The changes will be coming “in the near future,” said the announcement.
“Republic is developing improved recycling education programs that help to change recycling behaviors at home and at business in order to preserve these recycling programs,” said the letter.
John McGoran, Republic’s manager of municipal services, was not immediately available to comment.
Republic’s $10.4 million price tag for services in Penn Hills through 2021 reflects a 43 percent increase from the municipality’s previous three-year deal with the company. Andrejchak partly blamed the rate hike for what eventually led council to raise 2019 property taxes.
“If Penn Hills had a preference, it would not have the higher costs and stricter rules associated with recycling,” he said. “Something that may have been acceptable in a recycling bin in the past is an issue now because of the economics of recycling.”
Faith Milazzo, founder of Penn Hills Anti-Litter Group, said she is saddened to know more items ultimately will end up in a landfill.
But “it is better than a resident tossing in something that can’t be recycled or something that is dirty,” she said in an email, citing examples such as plastic toys or wet newspapers that sat out in the rain.
Milazzo said she’s already heard of people giving up on recycling because the process has become too cumbersome.
“Of course, I would prefer that residents take the time to put the correct, clean, dry items in rather than just ‘giving up,’ ” Milazzo said. “Hopefully, this will ultimately result in more things getting recycled, because I am guessing so many things were not before because they were contaminated.”
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .