Penn Hills, Shaler, Wilkins among communities adapting to new recycling rules
On a recent wintry morning, a Penn Hills senior had her orange recycling bin placed at the curb ready for pickup as usual.
But unlike other recycling days prior, Margaret Shafer, 85, wasn’t sure if the contents of her bin adhered to new guidelines.
Shafer wasn’t aware of Scottdale-based Republic Service’s new rules on recycling, which exclude most plastics and all glass from its list of recyclables.
“I guess I’ll throw it in those then,” Shafer said, pointing to her blue waste bins. “I didn’t know. But I’ve been recycling for years.”
The waste service company serving Penn Hills published a pamphlet of updated recycling rules about a month after council hired it to continue serving the municipality for another three years. Wilkins and Shaler townships, also served by Republic, are affected as well.
As of January, Republic no longer picks up certain plastics, metals and glass.
Plastics that contain the No. 3 through 7 — such as shrink wrap, fast food containers and styrofoam — and all glass no longer will be accepted. Residents are instructed to now include such items in their regular trash receptacles.
The company will continue to take electronic waste items but will limit how much can be picked up at one time. Residents still have to make an appointment for such pickups.
Items that can be picked up include televisions, computers and monitors, VCRs, DVD players, printers, fax machines, cable boxes, keyboards and gaming equipment. To make an appointment for an E-waste pick-up, call 877-788-9400.
An informational pamphlet outlining the new guidelines, which can be found on Penn Hills’ website, will be mailed to all residents in January.
There are other waste services in the region that will recycle most items Republic now deems “non-recyclables.” But for now, at least in Penn Hills, residents will need to transport such items to a recycling facility or drop-off location.
Faith Milazzo, founder of Penn Hills Anti-Litter Group, said she already is doing just that. Her place of work in Pittsburgh allows her to bring glass to recycle.
“It will take you a couple of extra seconds to flip it over to see the number,” she said, referencing plastics. “But most things you buy in a store, they really are (No.) 1 and 2.”
Milazzo said Construction Junction in Point Breeze also accepts recyclables. According to its website, Construction Junction accepts freon appliances, scrap metal, light bulbs and batteries, various medical supplies, bicycles and glass. The City of Pittsburgh keeps a recycling drop-off location at the site as well.
Less for more
Republic’s $10.4 million price tag for services in Penn Hills reflects a 43 percent increase from the municipality’s previous three-year deal with the company.
John McGoran, Republic’s manager of municipal services, said the reason is two-fold. First, the U.S. has become “sloppy” with recycling.
“About 20 percent of what we pick up is considered contaminated, or not recyclable,” McGoran said. “We have ceramic dishes, garden hoses — those continue to be put in containers. We need to get back to the basics.”
Contaminates, such as grease found on pizza boxes and glass that can shatter and end up mixed in with paper, are what end users find less disirable, McGoran said.
The second reason for the rate hikes stems from changes China made to its waste-accepting standards, which went into effect in January 2018.
The standards mean tougher rules for contamination levels and ban 24 types of solid waste such as plastics and unsorted mixed papers.
“That’s the biggest part of this,” McGoran said. “When (China) took on a new clean recycling formula, the entire world followed behind them. And that greatly increased the cost to do business.”
McGoran said Penn Hills isn’t alone and he expects more and more areas to do the same as contracts with haulers expire.
Some Western Pennsylvania communitiesserviced by Waste Management, including 19 in the South Hills, have seen similar changes to their recycling guidelines as well.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .