County Aims To Improve Recycling
After having a very successful electronics recycling program in January collecting 12,251 pounds of materials from residential and school settings, Fulton County’s recycling coordinator and very own environmental enthusiast is hoping to better the existing recycling program and improve awareness locally on the importance of reusing and proper disposal.
Fulton County residents have been recycling for countless years utilizing a variety of methods over the years ranging from curbside pickup and source separation to the current method of “single stream,” according to Greg Reineke, recycling coordinator.
Unlike source separation, where each type of recyclable item is placed in its own bin, single stream offers an easier method of recycling for residents as all items are dumped into one bin and later sorted by recycling companies before being shipped to perspective markets. However, even though the system is undoubtedly easier for locals and has prompted an increase in the amount of items being recycled, some recycling program rules are clearly being ignored, thereby posing problems for officials and recycling facilities.
One of the biggest issues routinely encountered by Reineke is the placement of plastic bags, whether from Walmart or the garbage bag variety, in recycling bins.
“I see loads of bags in the bins. The worst offense is when folks load up plastic garbage bags with recyclables and throw the whole bag in the bin,” said Reineke, who noted when bags are placed in the bins workers at the Penn Waste recycling facility in York have to physically tear the bag open to reach the items. “It’s not efficient, and it is not fair.”
Beyond plastic bags, which can be turned in at Giant grocery store, additional plastic items are also being placed in bins that do not fall under plastic container guidelines. Acceptable plastic containers must have necks smaller than their bases such as soda, milk, juice and water bottles. Caps and lids must be removed, and the containers must be rinsed thoroughly. Examples of unacceptable plastic items include margarine and yogurt tubs, styrofoam, bubble wrap and toys.
Another issue observed routinely by recycling officials is cardboard and paperboard boxes that are not properly broken down or flattened. “People are constantly complaining about the bins being full, and this is one reason the bins fill up so fast – too much space being taken up with whole boxes,” he stated.
Of course, other items without any type of connection to recycling have been known to surface in the bins, thereby taking up valuable space and wasting the time of recycling officials. Among those undoubtedly deemed as bizarre by Reineke have been bricks, shoes, a dozen drinking glasses, table lamps and possibly the most annoying of all-actual bags of garbage.
“As long as we keep nonrecyclables to a minimum, then we should be OK as far as having bins taken away from us ... Right now, the thing that probably affects whether we’ll have bins in the future or not is simple economics. If the material collected has value, then the bins will continue to be emptied. If the markets crash and there’s no end market for the material, then we’re in trouble,” Reineke said of the joint recycling program offered in Fulton, Bedford and Huntingdon counties.
With single steam recycling already causing an increase in recycling locally, Reineke considers his immediate goal to be quite simple in getting people to properly utilize the bins. Bins are currently located in the 216 North Second Street parking lot of Annex #1 and #2, Forbes Road Elementary School and municipal buildings in Bethel and Thompson townships.
A bit more complex with his future goals, Reineke said he hopes for residents to gain an understanding on the importance of recycling and how it in turn saves energy and resources.
“I’d also like people to understand that it’s not just a cheap way to get rid of part of their trash. As a matter of fact, it costs money to recycle, just like it costs money to dispose of garbage,” Reineke concluded. “I’d also like people to realize that from a solid waste perspective, recycling is a last choice. We really should be working harder at not producing as much waste to begin with by reducing the amount of material we need to dispose of and reusing as many things as possible.”
Any resident interested in learning more about recycling and the single stream method can check out Penn Waste recycling facility in York online at www.pennwaste.com. The Web site also includes a recycling facility link where residents can watch a quick movie or clip about the separation facility.
Acceptable items for recycling
• Magazines, catalogs
• Phone books
• Cardboard boxes
• Clean pizza boxes
• Food boxes
• Plastic containers with necks
smaller than their bases
• Clear, green or brown glass food
and beverage containers
• Empty aerosol cans
• Steel food and beverage cans
• Aluminum beverage cans
Unacceptable items for recycling
• Plastic bags and garbage bags
• Used tissues, paper towels and
• Food-soiled cardboard
• Aluminum foil
• Scrap metal
• Plastic tubs and cups
• Windows, mirrors, light bulbs
• Drinking glasses
• Bubble and shrink wrap, packing