Glass recycling continues locally

This new Waste Management poster reflects the recycling program in Avalon, Bellevue, Ben Avon, Emsworth and Kilbuck Township.

As recycling rules change across the region and country, North Boroughs residents have been confused about what can and cannot be placed in their recycling bins. A recent mailing from Waste Management didn’t’ help clear up any confusion, as glass was noticeably missing from both the “Do” and “Do Not” recycle lists.

Meanwhile, residents of other Pittsburgh area communities have been told they can no longer recycle glass bottles and jars.

In most of the North Boroughs, however, glass recycling will continue for at least the next couple years.

Bellevue, Avalon, Ben Avon, Emsworth and Kilbuck Township all are parties to the contract with Waste Management negotiated through the Quaker Valley Council of Governments. As part of that agreement, glass recycling is permissible.

“We are going to honor that contract,” said Erika Deyarmin-Young of Waste Management. "Since there has been a lot of news coverage surrounding changes to local recycling programs, and to avoid confusion, we felt it was best to leave these materials off the education pieces to avoid message conflict for residents. In hindsight, this decision may have created more confusion than anticipated and we offer our apologies."

Residents should prepare themselves for a glass ban when it comes to future contracts, however, as waste removal companies find that the collection of glass actually results in fewer items actually being recycled overall.

That primarily is the result of the current “single stream” recycling process, where all materials eligible for recycling are collected together. When glass is added to the mix and crushed along with everything else, the hauler ends up with a “contaminated” load, in which crushed glass has become embedded in plastics, cardboard, etc.

Prior to 2018, contaminated materials were not such a big problem, as most were purchased by China. Last year, however, the Chinese increased their standards for accepting recycled materials, eliminating the market. Now, contaminated loads are going to end up in a landfill, meaning that otherwise acceptable materials -- like plastic and metal -- won’t be recycled either.

Another contamination problem comes from items containing food waste. One partially empty plastic drink bottle tossed into a recycling bin can again contaminate the entire load. This goes for any item that might contain food waste, such as cardboard pizza boxes. Residents should rinse any glass, plastic or metal containers before placing them in the recycling bin.

Yet another common problem is plastic grocery and store bags. Although many people are used to placing a plastic bag full of cans or bottles in the recycling bin, those bags can become caught up in the recycling equipment and lead to costly break downs.Those bags are best recycled at one of the many stores that accept them.

At this time, residents of Avalon, Bellevue, Ben Avon, Emsworth and Kilbuck can place all of the following in their recycling containers: glass, plastic bottles and jars labeled #1 - #7, metal food and beverage cans, paper, and flattened cardboard. On the “Do Not Recycle” list are food waste, plastic bags and film, foam cups and containers, bagged recyclables and needles.Residents of other municipalities should check with their local government or waste hauler if they have questions about recycling.

Waste Management also has special pick-up programs for things like large furniture, as well as automotive products, electronics, paint, household cleaners, garden chemicals and anything containing mercury, like batteries and lightbulbs.