recycling redux

A trash collector gathers recyclables along Washington Road. /photo: John Schisler

Mt. Lebanon’s new five-year, $11 million trash and recycling contract, with Waste Management, will begin in January. Trash will continue to be picked up weekly; recycling pickup will continue to be bi-weekly.

Commissioners Kelly Fraasch and Steve Silverman voted against the contract because they preferred the weekly recycling pickup option.

As we’ve been telling you for the last few months, WHAT you may recycle has changed. No glass or plastics 3-7 may be placed in your single stream recycling bin.

This is hard to process for those of us who have felt good about protecting the environment by keeping as much indestructible material as possible out of landfills, but due to market changes and other issues, none of the three waste haulers who responded to the 18-community SHACOG bid would accept glass or pliable plastics.

The issue is complex. There no longer is a market for most plastics, and although there still is a market for glass, shattered glass is the main contaminant that causes loads of refuse to be rejected at the recycling plant or even at the Pacific Rim, where most of our recycling goes. Thus the loads end up in landfills anyway. Beginning in 2020, Mt. Lebanon and other communities will be penalized $150 per contaminated load, a possible burden to taxpayers of more than $250,000 a year.

With good intentions, many of us have been “wishcycling”—tossing things we hope-but-aren’t-sure are recyclable into the bin.  From this point on—and you can begin now—we’ll need to take more care, especially with plastics. Before tossing any plastic into your bin, rinse it, check the number on the bottom (maybe keep a magnifying glass on hand), and if in doubt, keep the item out of the recycling bin.

Paper, cardboard and metal are still allowed. For more information, check out the FAQs on the homepage at, and yes, you’ll hear more about the new regs in next month’s issue.  In the meantime, SHACOG and members of the environmental sustainability board, are checking into alternative solutions for recycling glass.