recycling changes to come

Mt. Lebanon and other SHACOG (South Hills Council of Governments) communities will need to change our recycling habits by January 2019, and it’s not too soon to begin thinking about it.

Three companies submitted proposals to the SHACOG communities in mid-July as part of a joint solid waste bid, and no matter which hauler is awarded the contract, change has been mandated and will continue to take place each year of the contract. This change is not a local mandate but due to market forces and international trade regulations.

Starting in January 2019, residents will be able to recycle fewer items. The biggest change will be that glass and plastics numbered 3 through 7 will not be taken. Residents will need to pay closer attention to the way permitted items are prepared for the bin. Beginning in January 2019, the hauler will track and report violations of proper recycling to the municipalities for one year; then in 2020, municipalities will be charged $150 for every ton of “contaminated” recyclables.

Recycling the right way is serious business, both for the environment and the tax dollar.

Protecting the environment remains a priority, but the traditional recycling messaging needs fine-tuning.  Most important is that many people recycle carelessly, so a significant portion of items collected from recycling bins contains unacceptable materials that “contaminate” the loads.  This practice is known as “wish-cycling” where people put items they hope can be recycled into the bin when in fact the non-recyclable item damages other recyclable items in the load. Contaminated loads are turned away by the recycling plant and go into in landfills anyway.

A second reason for change is that the demand for various types of recyclables waxes and wanes.  If there is no market, the items still will likely end up in landfills. The materials that are in demand may change from year to year.

Beginning next year, loads of recyclable material found to be contaminated will result in fines to the municipality.

The rules for aluminum and steel items as well as paper and cardboard will not change. To summarize, here are the changes along with some other things to keep in mind:

Glass is no longer recyclable, period. Window glass and mirror glass have never been permitted, but now all glass is banned because glass is a major contaminant. It shatters and scatters throughout the load, embedding into other recycled objects (such as paper and cardboard), making them unusable.

Only plastics #1 and #2 will be accepted (we used to accept 1-4).  Plastic #1 is PET, used in soft drink bottles, peanut butter jars, etc. and is recycled into fiberfill for sleeping bags, carpet fibers, rope, pillows, etc. Plastic #2 is HDPE, found in milk jugs, butter tubs, detergent bottles, motor oil bottles, etc., and is recycled into flowerpots, trashcans, traffic barrier cones and detergent bottles.

Check the bottoms of plastic containers for the number to be sure.

Anything you recycle must be clean.  Do not put anything with food residue or other sorts of grease into the bin. Rinse all jars, containers and bottles well. Contrary to common belief, there is no mechanism to clean dirty cans and bottles inline at the recycling facility.

Place all caps and lids into the regular trash, even if the plastic containers are numbered #1 or #2 are recyclable.

Even though the contractual changes to recycling will not take effect until January 1, 2019, it is not too soon to begin practicing new habits and removing glass and plastics #3 and #4 from your recycling bins and including them with the regular trash.

We understand that this is a major change to recycling behaviors for our residents. Over the coming months, the municipality will be distributing additional recycling information that should help make the change easier for our residents. We encourage residents to keep an eye on the municipal website, the Mt. Lebanon Magazine website, and social media pages for additional updates.