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Allegheny County Communities Examine Benefits of Recycling More

By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Talkin trash. Ross officials are kicking off a recycling campaign to encourage residents to be more recycle friendly. Residents on Jefferson Street in the North Hills Estates are taking part in the recycling efforts. Samantha Cuddy | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Communities across Allegheny County are lightening their loads.

Instead of throwing away such items as newspapers and plastic bottles, more residents are recycling them.

Mt. Lebanon is recycling at nearly double the rate of just two years ago.

“There are so many environmental benefits. It makes sense to recycle,” said Larry Holley, manager of the Division of Waste Minimization and Planning with the state Department of Environmental Protection. In Pennsylvania, the “green” benefits extend beyond the environment.

DEP reimburses municipalities for what they recycle — disbursing nearly $35 million last year, Holley said.

Mt. Lebanon officials sold their constituents on recycling by making it easier for them to do. Last year, the township began allowing residents to toss all recyclables in one bin. Tom Kelley, director of public works, said Waste Management has collected 1,056 tons of recyclables so far this year – an 88 percent increase from the same time in 2008.

“It’s an easy program, and people like that,” Kelley said. “When you make things easy for people, they’re going to participate.”

Last month, Ross agreed to a one-year contract extension with Waste Management.

Mike Christ, municipal coordinator for the company, told township officials that they could double the amount of materials recycled if they increased awareness of what can be recycled.

“People don’t realize how much can be recycled,” Christ said. “They still think newspapers can’t be thrown in there.”

A heavy load

Pennsylvanians recycle about 5.2 million tons of garbage each year, according to the DEP.

The 5.2 million tons of recyclables saved 55,500 acres of standing forest and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions equal to removing 1.4 million vehicles from the roads, Holley said. He estimates that nearly 80 percent of all Pennsylvanians have access to some sort of recycling program.

Ross Commissioner Pete Ferraro said he believes recycling could help the township with its budget problems.

In December, Ross officials passed a 2010 budget that includes $1.3 million worth of cuts. Ferraro said he wants to at least double the township’s recycling reimbursement from the state – which totaled more than $22,000 last year.

“If we can raise $25,000 above and beyond our normal revenues, that’s a police car for us,” Ferraro said. “It’s worthwhile for our residents to recycle.”

In Robinson, the township began offering residents the opportunity to put all their recyclables in one bin this year. Township Manager Aaron Bibro said he receives several calls each month about recycling and believes that residents are catching on.

“The township just wants to do its part in creating a green community,” he said.

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