I recently was driving through my neighborhood on trash day with my 11-year-old son, and he was checking out the quantity of trash that was out for pick-up.
“Mom, where does all the trash go?” he asked.
“It gets taken to a landfill,” I explained. “It’s like a huge garbage dump.”
“But where will it go once the landfill is full, like when I’m grown up?” he asked.
“That’s a really good question,” I replied.
He then asked, “Why can’t we just recycle all trash, Mom? That way it won’t pollute the earth and the oceans.”
I told him I thought it would be great if we could recycle all trash, and I hope some day we will, but we don’t have the means or technology—at least not yet—to recycle all trash.
As commission liaison to Mt. Lebanon’s environmental sustainability board, I have discovered astounding facts about recycling, including these:
• The average person generates more than four pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.
• More than three quarters of waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30 percent of it.
• Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt light bulb for 20 hours, a computer for three hours and a TV for two hours.
• Americans throw away 25,000,000 plastic bottles every hour!
• Americans threw away almost 9 million tons of glass in 2009, the year Mt. Lebanon began single-stream recycling. That could fill enough tractor-trailers to stretch from NYC to LA (and back!).
• We could save about 25 million trees annually, if every American household recycled one-tenth of its newspapers.
Mt. Lebanon residents are fortunate because we have the ability to recycle a wide variety of items. In fact, our single-stream unlimited recycling program, makes recycling incredibly easy, providing bi-weekly curbside pickup to 12,500 residential properties. “Single-stream” means that all recyclable materials may be combined for disposal in the same container—from paper and glass to plastic, metal and cardboard. For a full list of recyclables, visit www.lebogreen.org. You might be surprised at how many items can (and should) be recycled. Any sort of container is acceptable, so long as it has a green Mt. Lebanon recycling sticker on it. Stickers are available at the municipal building and library.
Additionally, Mt. Lebanon sponsors four curbside wood waste pickups every year and offers monthly wood waste drop-off events at the golf course from April through October. Eight monthly electronic drop-off events run from April through October, and there are eight paper-shredding events during the spring and summer.
Our single-stream unlimited program started in 2009 and the volume (tonnage) of recycling has increased by more than 212 percent annually since 2008. This past year, Mt. Lebanon received the Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence for Intergovernmental Cooperation for the South Hills Recycling Competition that we organized and sponsored in 2011. In 2013, Mt. Lebanon was awarded a $31,000 recycling grant from the PA Department of Environmental Protection to provide education and outreach to commercial, multifamily and institutional entities.
Is the municipality doing a lot to promote recycling in Mt. Lebanon? Absolutely. Can each of us do more to keep recyclables out of landfills? Without a doubt. If you are interested in environmental sustainability, the Mt. Lebanon Environmental Sustainability Board holds public meetings the second Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in the municipal building.