Friday, May 27, 2022

PA Resources Council, Partners, Local Officials Announce Plan To Reduce Waste, Modernize Recycling In Pennsylvania

In Pittsburgh and Philadelphia last week, the
PA Resources Council, PennEnvironment, other partners and local officials issued a call for updates to the Commonwealth's recycling law.

A new report released by PA Resources Council and PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center outlines how Pennsylvania’s solid waste laws haven’t kept up with the growing problems facing local recycling programs, trash disposal, and significant changes in the items making up Pennsylvania’s waste stream. 

Act 101, the landmark recycling law that made Pennsylvania a leader in 1988 needs multiple updates to meet the demands of today’s economy. 

Together with Eunomia, the groups found that the full potential of this recycling and waste management law in the Keystone State has not been met. 

PRC and PennEnvironment called on Act 101 to be modernized to address the Commonwealth’s growing waste problem, improve public health, clean up the environment and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.

“We live and use products differently than we did in 1988, and we need to modernize our recycling and waste management policies to reflect these differences,” said Darren Spielman, Executive Director of PA Resources Council. “Pennsylvania should be moving toward the goals of a zero-waste and circular economy where all post-consumer materials are reused and recycled. We look forward to working with policymakers on the pathways we’ve proposed to achieve those goals.”

Act 101 established four main goals in order to manage municipal waste, advance recycling and protect public health and safety. 

While the Act led to important changes across the state, the new analysis finds that the Commonwealth has fallen short on all four goals-- 

-- Efforts to educate Pennsylvanians about recycling have fallen short due to budget cuts;

-- Waste generation has grown;

-- The Commonwealth is not using and procuring recyclable products to the extent it can; and 

-- The overall state recycling rate is uncertain due to inadequate data collection.

Challenges in waste management and recycling abound in and across Pennsylvania. 

Waste generation has grown by 45% between 1990 and 2018. 

New products are being made that have no good end use plans, such as single-use plastics and e-waste. 

And recycling funding has been stagnant, which is leading to cities cutting the types and amounts of recycling that they collect.

“Our study shows we have the tools and technical know-how to address this challenge. Now the question is, do we have the political will?,” said Faran Savitz, Zero Waste Advocate, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “There isn’t a silver bullet solution to our waste crisis. It requires a concerted effort from all of our leaders targeting every step of the process to really make a difference.”

“Electronic waste is a rapidly growing problem in Pennsylvania, but we can take steps to change that.  We can – and must – make it easier for Pennsylvanians to recycle their electronics and avoid e-waste,” said Rep. Mike Zabel (D-Delaware).

Pittsburgh Deputy Mayor Jake Pawlak states, “In Pittsburgh, we’re excited to lead the way by setting a goal of zero waste for City government by 2030, distributing recycling bins, implementing a deconstruction policy for condemned buildings, and enacting a plastic bag ban that will go into effect next year; we’re also looking forward to establishing a pilot program for municipal composting next year.”

“This report’s policy recommendations provide a blueprint for the next generation of waste reduction and recycling in Pennsylvania, and I strongly support all the report’s findings,” said Pittsburgh City Councilperson Erika Strassburger. “It will take city leaders working with partners at the Commonwealth to transform our waste mitigation while creating jobs, and I look forward to doing just that.”

While it created a necessary foundation for the Commonwealth to kick-start recycling, the report finds that Act 101 is inadequate today. 

A key challenge has been that recycling requirements differ across municipalities, which impedes the benefits of strong recycling and waste diversion. 

Examples include:

-- Only 475 municipalities are required to offer curbside recycling under Act 101. Voluntary recycling programs, which account for three-fourths of the municipal recycling programs in the state (1,520) are not required to meet Act 101 standards. If each municipality was required to meet the same set of standards, it would allow them to jointly contract for services more cost effective.

-- Act 101 only requires those municipalities mandated to provide recycling to collect three out of eight listed materials (aluminum cans, steel/tin cans, 3 types of plastic, newsprint, corrugated paper, and clear, brown and green glass). This makes it difficult to coordinate recycling education and messaging across the whole Commonwealth.

PRC and PennEnvironment outline a series of 15 recommendations in the report to improve the state of recycling and waste management in Pennsylvania, including--

-- Enforcing existing Act 101 provisions such as requiring additional recycling by Commonwealth agencies;

-- Developing a mandatory set of materials to be recycled that all municipalities must follow;

Enacting landfill bans for certain materials, such as aluminum and steel cans, which are endlessly recyclable; and

-- Implementing new policies such as “right to repair” legislation that would allow Pennsylvania consumers to have access to tools and services to repair goods rather than dispose of them, as well as deposit return systems for beverage containers.

“The Streets Department is committed to continuously improving its curbside recycling program and working with the Office of Sustainability to identify innovative strategies for achieving the City’s zero waste goals,” said Scott McGrath, Environmental Services Director, Philadelphia Streets Department.  “Managing other parts of the waste stream in many cases requires a broader statewide solution such as enforcement of commercial recycling requirements where collected materials are combined in a truck that crosses municipal boundaries, recycling of tires, and e-waste.”

The analysis makes clear the environmental and economic benefits of comprehensive waste and recycling policies. 

Recycling reduces the need to make products from raw materials and thus reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that drive climate change. 

For 2018, recycled material offset GHGs equivalent to taking more than 2 million vehicles off the road in one year. 

In terms of economic benefits, the recycling marketplace employed 66,000 Pennsylvanians directly with another 110,000 more indirect and induced jobs as of 2015. Recycling has contributed $22.6 billion to Pennsylvania’s gross state product.

Click Here for full report, executive summary and Act 101 recommendations.

For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Resources Council website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates, follow PRC on Twitter or Like them on FacebookClick Here for PRC’s Events Calendar.  Click Here to support their work.

PRC is Pennsylvania’s oldest grassroots environmental organization founded in 1939.  PRC has worked to protect resources for future generations through environmental education, recycling, waste diversion programs, anti-litter campaigns and other initiatives. 


-- PA Resources Council, Groups Recommend Changes To Improve Recycling For All Pennsylvanians

-- Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh, State Groups Make Recommendations For Increasing, Improving Recycling Statewide

-- TribLive: New Study Urges Pennsylvania To Improve Recycling Efforts

-- Pittsburgh City Paper: Elected Officials, Environmental Groups Call For Updates To PA’s Recycling Laws

-- WESA: Environmental Groups, Pittsburgh Officials Call On PA To Modernize Its Recycling System

-- PA Capital-Star: In Pittsburgh, Elected Officials, Environmental Groups Call For Updates To PA’s Recycling Laws

-- WHYY/PlanPhilly: Advocates, Philadelphia Officials Suggest Recycling Overhaul To Address ‘Growing Waste Crisis’ In PA

Related Articles:

-- Centre County Commissioners Recognize Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority's 50th Anniversary 

-- Rep. Metcalfe: It Would Be ‘Irresponsible’ And ‘Neglecting Your Duty’ Not To Protect The Public From The Health Consequences Of Certain Businesses  

[Posted: May 27, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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