By: James Overmoyer
Over the summer, the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority updated its recycling guidelines, asking citizens to focus only on the “big four” items: corrugated cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs with necks, metal food and beverage cans, and glass jars and bottles. Why the major change?
The new guidelines were brought about by the collapse of the international recycling market. In 2017, the U.S. recycling markets were upended when China announced it would no longer import used plastics and paper. After China stopped its large-scale imports, many recycling plants in America and other countries reconsidered what recycling they would accept.
Today, it is becoming increasingly expensive to recycle, in part due to the major cost to sort the usable recyclables from improperly-recycled materials. By outlining clear standards, LCSWMA and other recycling centers hope to reduce costs and increase profits. After the massive decline in recycling markets because of China’s exit, cost-effective recycling is essential for recycling to continue.
EASD Director of Building and Grounds Adam Bergens noted that the custodial staff faces some challenges when recycling, including not bagging paper, which poses a littering concern on windy days, and the impracticality of asking students to rinse out bottles, etc. In addition, Bergens noted the prevalence of improperly-recycled items. (The Expression examined the contents of three recycling bins in the school and found cookies, wrappers, paper, and other trash.) However, Bergens stated, “Recycling can be an inconvenience, but being a good steward [of] the environment is necessary and every little bit we can do helps.”
LCSWMA’s website offers the following advice for those residents confused about what can and cannot be recycled: “when in doubt, throw it out! LCSWMA will transform discarded waste into renewable energy.”
Globally, $9 billion tons of litter is discarded into the ocean. LCSWMA’s new guidelines seek to address the worldwide pollution crisis, one piece of properly-recycled material at a time.