In The Loop

Welcome to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority's Blog

Entries Tagged as Recycling

The Recycling Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

September 24, 2018 ·

Hopefully by now, you’ve heard that recycling has changed in Lancaster County. Residents should place only the “Big 4” in their recycling bins: 1) corrugated cardboard, 2) plastic bottles and jugs with a neck, 3) metal food and beverage cans, and 4) glass bottles and jars.

But you may not have heard that Lancaster County is not the only community impacted by recent recycling changes. The “recycling crisis” has created significant challenges for recycling programs across the United States. So, how did we get here?

For many years, well-meaning “wishful recyclers” have incorrectly believed that most things are recyclable. In part, this misconception grew from the waste industry’s desire to facilitate a convenient process for recyclers. The message was: “Put it all in your bin. We’ll sort it later.” Unfortunately, this convenience turned problematic when contamination levels increased. Contamination happens when people place materials in the recycling bin that do not belong. And the largest importer of recyclable materials from the U.S. said “no more.”

Previously, China was the largest consumer of recyclable materials generated in the United States. Growing frustrated by high contamination in imported recycling bales, China announced their “National Sword” campaign in summer 2017. This initiative enforced a crackdown on imported waste and communicated China’s intent to ban most recyclable materials, including post-consumer plastic and mixed paper. Among the changes was also the announcement of a new quality standard prohibiting contamination to .5%, which was significantly more stringent than the previously acceptable rate of 5%. And the hits kept coming. In July 2018, China announced their plan to ban all imported recycled commodities by the end of 2018.

So where does this leave us? Unfortunately, the United States does not have enough domestic demand for recyclable materials to replace the volume China previously bought. Meaning, the market is saturated with more recyclable material than our country can use. An important point to remember is that something can only be recycled if there is a demand for that material, by a manufacturer, to be turned into a new product for consumers to buy.

This big shift in the market caused significant ripple effects, including lost revenues, higher processing and capital costs for material recovery facilities (MRFs), higher transportation costs, fewer outlets for materials and increased stockpiling issues. MRFs (re: facilities that separate, bale and market the recyclables you put in your bin) are now in a financial crisis.  A reset is imperative to fix the contamination problem and help make recycling sustainable.

In Lancaster County, we believe the solution is three-fold: 1) simplicity, 2) consistency, 3) and awareness. We’re simplifying the recycling process by asking people to only place the “Big 4” in their recycling bin. We’re standardizing the message by working with municipalities, haulers and business partners to all follow the same guidelines across the county. And we’re raising awareness by publicizing the need to Recycle Right through an integrated PSA campaign, so people can learn to recycle right.

We know this is a huge shift for our community, and change will not come overnight. But if we work together, perhaps recycling can be better than it was before. Let’s Recycle Right Lancaster!

Tags: In The News · Recycling

In the News: Lancaster County Residents Struggling with Recycling 'Reset'

August 08, 2018 ·

Ad Crable, LancasterOnline
Orginally published August 8, 2018

Three weeks after Lancaster County waste officials announced they were scaling back curbside recycling, many residents are still putting banned items in their bins.

“We have a huge hurdle in front of us,” said Katie Sandoe of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. “People are still confused and working through the emotions of it. Many are saying, ‘It just feels wrong.’ ”

About 20 to 40 percent of the material being set out in curbside recycling containers should instead be placed in the trash, according to Sandoe.

The newly banned items include newspaper, magazines and many types of plastics, among other things.

Lancaster County was one of the first areas in Pennsylvania to react to a market collapse of recycling materials in the United States.

Here is a breakdown of some of the questions and concerns of county residents as they react to the recycling reset.

Why do we have to stop curbside recycling of newly banned items?

The recycling logjam was brought on by an unforeseen decision by China to stop taking many recyclables altogether and insist on uncontaminated material for other.

A rapidly developing China had been gobbling up half the world’s recycled paper and plastic. Now that it’s using many of its own resources, it doesn’t need the material, and the unwanted trash mixed in with recyclables from the U.S. has created a waste disposal problem.

Faced with no market or uncertain markets for some materials, the Lancaster County waste authority chose to cut out some recycling staples that residents had long thrown in their green recycling bins and hauled to the curb each week.

(These items include newspaper, office paper, magazines, yogurt cups, plastic food containers, bottle caps and cereal boxes.)

Instead, accepted recyclables have been trimmed to the “Big Four”: flattened corrugated cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs with necks, metal food and beverage cans, and glass jars and bottles. All containers must be empty, rinsed and caps removed.

Isn't this a step backward for recycling in Lancaster County?

The authority says materials now being recycled have long been in strong demand for making new products and are likely to have a strong market in the future.

The transition has been tough on avid recyclers who have long been mixing in nonrecyclable items in a behavior known as “wishful recycling,” said Sandoe.

“This is what led to the whole issue with China to begin with,” she said. “People aren’t sure what is truly recyclable so they are putting everything into their recycling bins.”

Also, curbside recycling only amounts to 14 percent of the 255,000 tons of recyclables collected in Lancaster County last year.

Recycling from businesses and institutions is largely unaffected, as they sell their material directly to recycling processors. The main problem has arisen in the processing phase of recyclables from areas where curbside collection has introduced contaminated items.

Can some items banned from curbside recycling bins still be recycled somewhere?

Yes. The authority urges residents to separate items such as newspapers, office paper, Styrofoam and other material and take it to recycling drop-off centers around the county.

For example, Lancaster city’s recycling center at 850 New Holland Ave. accepts newspapers, magazines and office paper. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

“I’m hoping we have a big uptick because I’d much rather see it brought to the recycling center than it be dumped into trash, even though I know it would be made into electricity,” said Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city’s public works director.

She said the city still has buyers for the material, even though revenue for it has declined. She said city workers do a good job of processing the material and removing items that would contaminate it.

Another place that accepts newspapers, magazines and office paper from the public on a drop-off basis is Mennonite Central Committee’s Material Resources Center at 517 W. Trout Run Road, Ephrata.

The website Earth911.com has a database where you can plug in your address and item you want to recycle to find the nearest outlets. LNP has found, however, that some of the places listed are no longer in operation.

Won't items no longer being recycled just be taken to the County landfill and fill up sooner?

No, Sandoe said. Unlike most communities in the United States, where materials no longer recycled are being taken to landfills, in Lancaster County the material is taken to the trash-to-energy incinerator and converted into electricity.

The increase in incinerator ash taken to the landfill will be minimal, she said.

But doesn’t that mean more air pollution to already poor air quality in Lancaster County?

The waste-to-energy facility incinerator has an extensive emissions control system and emissions are significantly under limits set by state and federal agencies, Sandoe said.

Why does Penn Waste still collect newspaper and plastics banned in Lancaster County?

Penn Waste is the contracted hauler of curbside recyclables and trash for Lancaster city, and Lancaster, West Lampeter, Mount Joy and Rapho townships.

It also is a recycling processor and continues to take some materials now banned in Lancaster County. Penn Waste’s website advises Lancaster County customers to follow the waste authority’s new guidelines.

Tags: In The News · Recycling

FREE Home Compost Workshops

March 09, 2018 ·

LCSWMA is partnering with municipalities, community organizations and Penn State Master Gardeners of Lancaster County to conduct home compost workshops where residents will learn how to recycle organic waste from their kitchens and gardens instead of putting it in the trash. Composting is an excellent way to recycle vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and other organic materials and turn them into a useful and valuable soil amendment.

Workshop attendees will also learn how to build effective, yet inexpensive home compost bins to meet their needs. Each household in attendance will be eligible to receive a free kitchen scrap collection bucket and enter a raffle for a home compost bin courtesy of LCSWMA.

Lancaster County residents are invited to attend any one of the home compost workshops scheduled for this year. If required, residents should pre-register by no later than Friday at noon prior to the workshop they’ll be attending.
 

  • April 25 at the City of Lancaster Recycling Facility located at 850 New Holland Avenue, Lancaster. The workshop is from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. No fee is required, but pre-registration is recommended. To pre-register or for more information, please contact the City of Lancaster Solid Waste and Recycling Manager at (717) 291-4762 or email tbreneisen@cityoflancasterpa.com.

  • ​​May 19 at the West Earl Township Municipal Building located at 157 West Metzler Road, Brownstown. The workshop is from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm. No fee is required, but pre-registration is recommended. To pre-register or for more information, please contact the West Earl Township Recycling Coordinator at (717) 859-3201 or email mwallace@westearltwp.com.

  • ​June 6 at the Chiques Creek Watershed Expo located at Manheim Farm Show Complex, 502 East Adele Avenue, Manheim. The workshop is from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm. No fee is required nor is pre-registration is not necessary. For more information, please contact Chiques Creek Watershed Alliance at manager@raphotownship.com.  This family event includes presenters from Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, the Lancaster Environmental Center, Lancaster County Conservation District, native plant nurseries, PA Fish and Boat Commission, Lancaster Conservancy and others.
     

  • ​June 23 at the West Donegal Township Municipal Building located 1 Municipal Drive, Elizabethtown. The workshop is from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. No fee is required, but pre-registration is recommended. To pre-register or for more information, please contact the West Donegal Township Recycling Coordinator at (717) 367-7178 or email wendy@wdtwp.com.

Tags: Community Events · Recycling

Christmas Tree Recycling

December 14, 2017 ·

Did you know you can recycle real Christmas trees to create beautiful things for the rest of the year? Some townships turn your tree into mulch for community parks! Click here to find a tree recycling location near you.

Tags: Recycling

ACT 101 Update

November 20, 2017 ·

This is the first article in an educational series, highlighting waste industry news.

SUMMARY:
Language in PA House Bill 118 effectively removed the sunset date from the $2 recycling fee and maintains the Recycling Fund established in Act 101. The bill (now Act 40 of 2017) was signed into law by Governor Wolf on October 30, 2017.

What does this mean and why is it important for our community’s recycling efforts?

Let’s start from the beginning.


Statewide recycling in Pennsylvania began in 1988 with the Municipal Waste Planning Recycling and Waste Reduction Act (Act 101) that requires larger municipalities (based on population) to recycle. The Act established a $2-per-ton fee on all waste disposed at municipal waste landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. The fees are placed into a Recycling Fund, from which the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) distributes grant money for local collection programs, public education, materials processing and composting facilities, equipment and technical training.

The Recycling Fund established in Act 101 was due to sunset January 1, 2020.

The hard work is seemingly done, why should community members care if the Recycling Fund ended?

Elimination of the fee, and the associated grant programs it supported, would have significantly impacted recycling programs throughout the Commonwealth.  Here’s how…

Up to 70% of the Recycling Fund provides:

  • development and implementation of county and municipal recycling programs;

  • municipal recycling program performance grants;

  • studies to aid in the development of markets for recyclable materials, and studies to encourage and implement waste reduction strategies;

  • research and demonstration grants for the beneficial use of solid waste;

  • and more.

Up to 30% of the Recycling fund is allotted to DEP for:

  • public information and public education;

  • municipal and county technical assistance programs for litter control, recycling and waste reduction;

  • research and demonstration projects;

  • county municipal waste management planning grants;

  • and more.

Had the Recycling Fund sunset, it would have been felt hard by Lancaster County’s 47 municipal recycling programs. It would have meant no funds for new or existing recycling programs that helped Lancaster County achieve a 44% recycling rate in 2016. But numerous organizations and associations advocated for the Recycling Fund to continue, and those efforts paid off with the passage of House Bill 118.

We hope this information helps you “rethink” waste and its impact on our daily lives including how important programs are funded. As citizens of this earth, we have a responsibility to manage it conscientiously and maximize its potential for a positive impact. 

  

Tags: In The News · Recycling

FREE Home Compost Workshops

April 07, 2017 ·

The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) is partnering with local municipalities, community organizations and Penn State Master Gardeners of Lancaster County to conduct FREE home compost workshops for residents, where individuals can learn how to recycle organic waste from their kitchens and gardens instead of putting it in the trash.

Composting is an excellent way to recycle vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves and other organics, turning those materials into a useful and valuable product to naturally improve the soil. Workshop attendees will also learn how to build effective, yet inexpensive home compost bins to meet their needs.  Each household attending a compost workshop can enter a drawing to receive a free kitchen scrap collection bucket courtesy of LCSWMA.

Lancaster County residents are invited to attend any of the home compost workshops scheduled for this year at no cost.  Residents are asked to pre-register by noon on the Friday prior to the workshop they’ll be attending.  The following lists dates and specific details for each workshop:

April 19 at the City of Lancaster Recycling Facility located at 850 New Holland Avenue, Lancaster.  The workshop is from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  To pre-register or for more information, contact the City of Lancaster Solid Waste and Recycling Manager at (717) 291-4762 or email tbreneisen@cityoflancasterpa.com.

May 20 at the East Donegal Township Municipal Building located at 190 Rock Point Road, Marietta.  The workshop is from 10:00 am to 11:00 am.  To pre-register or for more information, contact the East Donegal Township Recycling Coordinator at (717) 426-3167 or email vicki@eastdonegaltwp.com.

June 7 at the Chiques Creek Alliance Watershed Expo at the Manheim Farm Show Complex, 502 East Adele Avenue, Manheim.  The workshop is from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm.  For more information, email manager@raphotownship.com.  Pre-registration is not necessary.  This family event includes presenters from the Lancaster Environmental Center, Lancaster Conservation District, native plant nurseries, PA Fish and Boat Commission, Lancaster Farmland Trust, Lancaster Conservancy and others.

Tags: Green Tips · Community Events · Recycling

Going Green in the New Year

January 26, 2017 ·

Each new year comes with a promise of a fresh start, new experiences and for some, resolutions. It’s not too late to resolve to go green in 2017! Here are some simple and easy resolutions that contribute to a healthier planet.

Plastic Water Bottles: Ditch Them!
Buying bottled water not only costs money, but also generates plastic waste. In fact, enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times. Instead, invest in an at-home filtering pitcher or a reusable bottle made from aluminum, glass or recycled plastic.

Reusable Bags: A Must Have
Plastic bags are a huge drain on the environment, taking 15 to 1,000 years to decompose. Only 2% of bags are recycled each year, and the rest are sent to landfills or make their way to pollute our oceans. Next time you make a trip to the grocery story, consider using a reusable bag. Washable and sturdy, reusable bags make shopping trips more convenient and ecofriendly.

Cut Back on Paper Towels
Did you know 13 billion pounds of paper towels end up in landfills every day? Investing in a few cotton cloths and some fabric napkins can help reduce paper waste significantly. When the fabric napkins get dirty, just run them through the laundry. Cloth alternatives are not only less wasteful, but more economical.

Switch to Rechargeable Batteries
According to the EPA, Americans throw away more than 3 billion batteries every year. Many of these batteries will end up in landfills, taking up land as a precious resource. Make the switch to rechargeable batteries. This will decrease your battery consumption to a fraction it was before, saving you money, and producing less waste.

If the holidays have left you with a pile of old batteries you don’t know what to do with, LCSWMA offers free battery bags to Lancaster County residents. Place the bag next to your garbage can, or deliver it to our Household Hazardous Waste Facility on Harrisburg Pike for free disposal. To request bags or for more information, email us at info@lcswma.org.

Proper Disposal of Waste
When it comes to disposal, not all waste is the same. For instance, paint and electronics should not be placed in your trash can. Household hazardous waste (HHW) should be delivered to LCSWMA’s HHW Facility, free to Lancaster County residents. For a complete list of materials accepted at the HHW Facility, view our Resident’s Guide.

Tags: Green Tips · Recycling

Christmas Tree Recycling

December 22, 2016 ·

The following are some suggested Christmas tree drop-off locations for individual residents, haulers, businesses and municipalities. All trees and woody materials must be contaminant-free. No tree stands or plastic (including bags), wire, ornaments, lights, tinsel or other decorations may remain on the trees.

1. Lancaster County Central Park – main entrance located along Chesapeake Street, Lancaster. Call the Park Office at 299-8215 for information and instructions. Trees may be dropped off daily from December 26 through January 31 during regular park hours. Mulch will be available to the public beginning January 4 until January 31. A $1.00/tree donation is requested and appreciated to support park programs. Not for commercial collection.

2. Martin Mulch Products – located at 55 Woodcrest Drive, Ephrata. Call 733-1602 with questions. Trees may be dropped off Monday through Saturday between dawn and dusk. Single trees are $2.00 each; the price varies for larger deliveries.

3. Zeager Brothers – located at 4000 East Harrisburg Pike, Middletown. Call 944-7481 with questions. Trees may be dropped off Monday through Friday between 6 am and 5 pm. No charge. Zeager Brothers will be closed for business on December 25 and January 1

Some municipalities offer curbside collection of trees through their contract program; other municipalities offer drop-off locations for residents. Residents are encouraged to contact their municipal office for specific information about programs in their community.

Check www.Earth911.com for additional information and locations to recycle Christmas trees.

For a complete list of municipal Christmas tree recycling programs, click here.

Tags: Green Tips · Recycling

Dining Green for the Holidays

December 15, 2016 ·

​While the holiday season often means splurging, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate without being wasteful. Many of us will spend lots of time with friends and family around the dinner table, where perhaps the most excess waste occurs. Here are some tips to help you enjoy holiday meals with loved ones, and make sustainable choices.

Setting the Table.
Though it’s tempting to go with the convenience of disposable products, they aren’t always eco-friendly. Instead, stick with reusable dinnerware and table linens. Expecting a large crowd and afraid you’ll run out of dinnerware? You don’t have to break the bank - purchase a fun and eclectic mix of plates, cups and silverware at a flea market or garage sale. Going green for the holidays can be fun too. Check out these reusable napkin folding ideas that are sure to impress.

Think Local.
Much of your holiday meal can be purchased locally thanks to local growers. Beans, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, eggplants, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and squash are all produce that can be bought locally during the winter months. Not only does locally grown food put money back into your community, it also reduces your food’s carbon footprint because many grocery stores ship from across the country and overseas. Local farmer’s markets are a good place to start.

Eliminate Food Waste.
Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year, and food waste makes up about 21% of what is discarded.

The first step to reducing holiday food waste is determining how much you’ll need to feed your guests. Keep these “rules of thumb” in mind while planning for your event.

If you still have leftovers despite your efforts, don’t fret. Send them home with guests. Encourage guests to bring reusable containers to dinner so they’re prepared to take food home when the festivities end.

​Composting is another easy way to eliminate holiday food waste. New to composting? Learn more here.

Tags: Green Tips · Recycling · Waste Matters

Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2016 ·

The first Earth Day was celebrated 46 years ago.

At that time, LCSWMA was known as LARA – the Lancaster Area Refuse Authority. Recycling didn’t yet exist as we know it today and our Integrated System was yet to be established.

We’ve come a long way since that first Earth Day.

Today, LCSWMA serves both Lancaster and Dauphin Counties, managing around 900,000 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) and recyclable materials in a safe, reliable and efficient manner every year. Our award-winning Integrated System helps to keep 96.5% of Lancaster County’s MSW out of the Frey Farm Landfill, and allows us to turn waste from Lancaster and Dauphin Counties into electricity, powering the equivalent of 45,000 area homes.

On Earth Day and every day, LCSWMA is committed to doing all we can to manage waste in the most environmentally-sound way possible. Driven by our guiding principles, we are dedicated to the establishment of sustainable systems that provide the optimum balance between resource conservation and disposal of waste. 

And while we fulfill an essential public need, LCSWMA is also committed to community sustainability though generating renewable energy for the community and reducing our own energy consumption, in addition to fostering open space through building recreational trails and opening a nature preserve for the public to enjoy.

It is our privilege to serve Lancaster and Dauphin Counties, and together, we can help make our communities a more sustainable place to live, work and play.

 

Tags: Recycling · Renewable Energy