New Castle News

October 9, 2013

Our Opinion: Single-hauler system produces big recycling boost

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — If you make recycling more convenient, it will become a more productive program.

That’s just common sense, but the data coming in from Shenango Township indicates just how popular recycling can be when a user-friendly system is put into place.

Other communities should take note.

According to Shenango Township officials, about 29 tons of recyclable materials were collected in the municipality in 2008. This year, the township is expecting about 600 tons of recycling.

Almost certainly, the increase can be attributed to Shenango adopting a township-wide, single-hauler collection program in 2010 that included a major component for curbside recycling. By making it convenient for people to recycle, and by giving them bins large enough to accept all of the material households wish to recycle, Shenango is witnessing a steep increase in the amounts collected.

The township’s recycling also grew because the current system accepts more materials. If you’ve found yourself squinting at the bottom of a plastic bottle, trying to decipher the number, you probably wish for a program similar to Shenango’s: There, almost all plastic bottles are accepted.

The economics of recycling are a dicey proposition. When waste such as plastic and glass become commodities, their value rises or falls based on supply and demand.

Sometimes, the bottom falls out of the market for certain recyclables, creating an economic disincentive. And erratic supply poses problems as well. If more municipalities were as productive with recyclables as Shenango, it might help to produce a steadier stream of this material and encourage their reuse.

For the average person, however, these technical issues don’t matter much. Instead, households play a useful role in recycling by diverting materials from their trash. Shenango’s program appears to support that effort quite well.

And the benefits here are about more than a mere numbers game. Under Pennsylvania law, municipalities receive grant money based on the amount of recyclable materials they collect. As a result, Shenango is reaping a bit of a windfall. Thousands of dollars — the specific amount has yet to be determined — will be awarded to the township because of its recycling boost.

The supervisors have decided that some of this money will be put toward recycling education, in an effort to boost collection numbers even more in future years. But 90 percent of the recycling grant funds are being directed toward subsidies for low-income residents to assist them in paying their trash collection bills.

We hope Shenango’s success with this trash collection system will serve as an incentive for other municipalities to consider similar programs.