Monday, July 30, 2018

Pennsylvania’s Waste Planning, Recycling & Waste Reduction Act 101 Is 30 Years Old; Challenges For A $22.6 Billion PA Industry

The Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act (Act 101) was signed into law 30 years ago on July 28, 1988.
Act 101 created the most sweeping recycling program enacted by any state at that time and today is responsible for generating over 66,000 jobs directly involved in recycling or using recycled materials to make products that contributes $22.6 billion annually to Pennsylvania’s economy.
Just a few of the unique elements of Act 101 included--
-- Established statewide curbside recycling for 3 materials picked from a list of 9-- clear glass, colored glass, aluminum, steel and bimetallic cans, high-grade office paper, newsprint, corrugated paper and plastics;
-- Established a waste disposal fee to provide financial support for local recycling, composting, recycling education, anti-littering and waste reduction programs;
-- Banned the disposal and required the recycling of lead acid batteries;
-- Banned the disposal of yard waste in landfills;
-- Established a host municipality inspector and inspection program;
-- Authorized joint DEP, municipal inspection of waste facilities;
-- Established a host municipality benefit fee;
-- Provided additional water supply protections from waste facilities;
-- Encouraging public agencies to procure products with recycled content; and
-- Established a comprehensive, county-level waste planning with support for a county recycling coordinator.
A similar proposal was made first by Gov. Dick Thornburgh (R) and expanded and improved by Gov. Bob Casey (D).
Sen. Mike Fisher (R-Washington) and Sen. Ray Musto (D-Luzerne), Majority and Minority Chairs of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, introduced the original recycling bill in 1987 to start the process that later became the vehicle for the final Act 101.
It was the bipartisan team of Sen. Mike Fisher (R-Washington) and the late Sen. Ray Musto (D-Luzerne) as well as Sen. Jim Greenwood (R-Bucks) who served on the House-Senate conference committee that would craft the final law working with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. (Senators Fisher, Greenwood and Musto also represented the Senate on the conference committee for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (Act 108) that same year.)
The House was represented by Representatives Robert O’Donnell (D-Philadelphia), Bud George (D-Clearfield) and George Hasay (R-Luzerne), the Majority and Minority Chairs of the House Conservation Committee at the time.  (A few months later, Rep. George was the prime sponsor of the legislation that became Act 108, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act.)
Today, more than 11.6 million residents-- at least 94 percent of the state's population-- have access to recycling.
About 79 percent have convenient access to recycling through about 1,050 curbside pickup programs. In addition, Pennsylvania has 870 drop-off programs to extend recycling to the greatest number of communities in less populous areas of the state.
In 2015, Pennsylvania recycled over 7.78 million tons of what would otherwise be waste. This recycling effort, along with the many efforts made by Pennsylvanians across the state, provides these additional environmental benefits, including more than 10.1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions removed from the air, the amount of electricity saved in 1.4 million American homes per year, or 2.12 million in passenger vehicles taken off the road for one year.
Pennsylvania’s Act 101 Recycling Program resulted in developing a Recycling Marketplace in the state responsible for generating over 66,000 jobs directly involved in recycling or using recycled materials to make products that contributed $22.6 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy in 2015, according to an economic impact study released by the PA Recycling Markets Center.
The recycling program today is facing a series of challenges--
-- Recycling Markets: Markets for recycled materials, primarily China due to quality issues, are disappearing requiring local recycling programs to adjust what they are collecting a selling.  Lancaster County just cut back its single stream recycling program to four materials-- metal food containers, plastic bottles with a neck, glass bottles and corrugated cardboard;
-- Recycling Program Support: While the $2/ton Recycling Fee was renewed indefinitely by the General Assembly in 2017, revenue from the $2/ton waste fee has declined and with it support for recycling and other Act 101 program requiring a re-thinking of these programs;
-- Electronics Waste Recycling: Although not part of Act 101, but required by a separate law, electronics waste recycling has been in crisis for the last 4 years, bogged down by the complexity of its own requirements.
To help identify issues that should be addressed in Act 101 to deal with today’s issues in waste disposal and recycling, several steps have been taken in the last two years or so--
-- The PA Resources Council, one of the groups that originally lobbied for a state recycling law in the 1980s, hosted Act 101 recycling roundtables at both ends of the state in 2017 that engaged recycling industry stakeholders and local citizens in discussions about the future of recycling in Pennsylvania.
-- DEP’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee held a series of meetings in 2017 and this year on Act 101 issues, hoping to identify changes that are needed to update and modernize the recycling program.
-- The Joint Legislative Conservation Committee and the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held hearings on Act 101 and the electronics waste recycling program respectively in 2017.
-- The PA Recycling Markets Center has been engaged in helping to draft Senate Bill 800 (Alloway-R-Franklin) that totally revamps the existing electronics waste recycling program and has been working to help municipalities and businesses deal with recycled material market issues.
-- Keep PA Beautiful established a special website on e-waste to help consumers find places to recycle their electronics waste and learn more about the e-waste issue.  They have also provided testimony or testified at the Joint Legislative Conservation Committee and Senate hearing on recycling, litter, illegal dumping, electronics waste and related education issues.
There has been no movement on Act 101 recycling program updates or revamping the electronics waste recycling program this year.
To learn more about the existing recycling programs, visit DEP’s Recycling In Pennsylvania webpage.
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