Tuesday, January 31, 2023

DEP/PROP: Study Shows Growth in K-12 Students' Recycling Knowledge; 1988 Recycling Law Updates Needed

On January 31, the Department of Environmental Protection and the
Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania collaborated on a School Recycling Study Survey that shows Pennsylvania K-12 students have increased their knowledge and awareness of recycling over the past fiscal year.

“Students are our future, and it is important to see that they are increasing their awareness around recycling. It is incredible that these schools made a commitment to Pennsylvania’s present and future,” Acting DEP Secretary Richard Negrin said.

From July 2021 through June 2022, PROP (with funding from DEP) coordinated the study. This is the second year of the study, which gauges understanding of recycling among students and staff. 

Schools were asked to complete a brief survey, providing details on their current recycling programs and practices. The survey was sent to 3,770 public and private schools in Pennsylvania.

Of the schools surveyed, 86.6% recycle. Also, 43.5% of the schools surveyed have a recycling awareness program.

In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the survey was sent to 2,713 schools with 199 responding. 

In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, 81.4% of schools responded that they have a recycling program.

Some of the questions in the survey include: Does the school recycle? Does your school have a recycling awareness program? Is cost a barrier?

“Student awareness of recycling is a critical step in making sure these students continue to recycle through adulthood,” said PROP Executive Director Jennifer Summers. “Recycling is a cross-generational effort, and it is imperative that we know how our students are faring with their recycling knowledge.”

The summary report also details ways to increase awareness and how schools respond to waste with other methods, like composting. PROP is instrumental in driving student awareness and hosts a yearly poster contest for students.

“Just as our schools nurture and preserve their students’ futures, so too must our communities nurture and preserve the future of our environment,” said Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “By introducing learners to the importance of recycling, that knowledge can spread, and young minds can be empowered by sharing this critical best practice with their friends, families, and neighbors.”

The next steps include working with individual coordinators with results from their counties and another survey. 

Another survey will be used to collect more detail about the types of education and training that is needed for the schools. 

The outcomes of the surveys will result in the creation of tools and resources for schools and school business officials, including web resources.

Click Here for a copy of the school survey.

For more information on recycling, visit DEP’s Recycling In Pennsylvania webpage.

Recycling Law Updates Needed

In September 2022, the PA Resources Council and PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center released a new report that 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 1988 recycling law that made Pennsylvania a leader in 1988, needs multiple updates to meet the demands of today’s economy.

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.  Read more here.

In December 2021, DEP released a 54-page white paper outlining the history of the Act 101 Recycling Programs, the status of waste generation, disposal and recycling in Pennsylvania and the fact that recycling contributes $22.6 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy and directly employs over 66,000 people.

The paper also outlined a series of recommendations to expand recycling and reduce waste--

-- Diversion of organic waste from landfills by funding composting and anaerobic digestion projects.

-- Keep recycling funds in the Recycling Fund.

-- Support smaller, dual-stream and commingled waste recycling facilities.

-- Create Research and Development grants to invest in emerging technologies.

-- Fund regional public Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) to create competition and  increase stability in the cost of processing recyclables.

-- Reinstitute a Waste Planning Section to evaluate new technologies, product evaluations and the consumption of recyclable materials in Pennsylvania.

-- Oversee the development of a comprehensive education program to improve the quality of materials collected.

-- Expand access to recycling through convenience centers. Ensure all Pennsylvanians have convenient access to all recycling options.  Read more here.

In September 2022, Ali Tarquino Morris, Director of DEP’s Bureau of Waste Management noted in a presentation to DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council, the trends in waste generation and recycling have been going in the wrong direction.

She reported the overall amount of waste generated in Pennsylvania has increased 8.3 percent between 2015 and 2021-- from 14.3 million tons to 15.6 million tons.

In 2019, the most recent year available, 5.25 million tons were recycled, which is roughly the same amount that was recycled in 2004-- 5.14 million tons.

Municipal waste generated in Pennsylvania has increased 10.1 percent-- 8.62 million tons in 2015 to 8.59 million tons in 2021.

Residual waste (industrial waste) generated in Pennsylvania has increased 7.1 percent-- from 2.99 million tons in 2015 to 3.22 million tons in 2021

The overall amount of waste being disposed in the state has increased 9.3 percent between 2015 to 2021-- 21.4 million tons to 23.6 million tons.

DEP’s paper also notes, “in the last two decades there has been approximately $188 million diverted [from the Recycling Fund] to other programs including Waste Tire Remediation, Growing Greener, Forest Lands Beautification and General Fund augmentations.

“The most recent diversion of $50 million to the General Fund has greatly impeded DEP’s ability to implement new plans and new ideas.

“Stated simply, most of the recommendations in this report cannot be accomplished since adequate resources no longer exist.”  Read more here.

Related Articles:

-- PennEnvironment, PA Resources Council Release Plan To Reduce Waste, Improve Recycling Efforts, And Meet Modern Waste Challenges

-- Recycling Program, Managing Electronics Waste On DEP Citizens Advisory Council Agenda For Oct. 18

-- DEP Outlines Recommendations For Changing Act 101 And Electronics Waste Recycling Laws To Make Them More Effective At Dec. 16 Advisory Committee Meeting

-- DEP Bans Sale Of Electronic Devices Made By AWOW Tech For Not Complying With PA’s Electronic Waste Recycling Law; E-Waste Recycling Program Broken

[Posted: January 31, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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