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By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Recycling in the city moving away from blue bags


Last updated 7/20/2017 at 5:06am

Trash and recycling was the focus of much of the July community meeting of the Allentown CDC.

Guest speaker for the evening was Kyle Winkler, recycling supervisor for the City of Pittsburgh Dept. of Environmental Services.

“What the heck is the city doing in terms of recycling? You probably haven’t heard from us in a while,” he said. “We’re definitely trying to upgrade, update, renew the recycling program.”

One of the ways they are moving toward is by using recycling bins. The blue bags that have been used in the city for recycling for more than 20 years are actually a contaminant in the recycling system, he said.

“Those bags actually tangle on the equipment and cause increased costs in processing and material,” he said.

For the last two-plus years, the city has been paying to recycling the material, “but it’s still cheaper than a landfill,” he continued.

He said the days of earning $20 a ton for the recycled material are done. While China once took much of the material and could sort it with cheap labor, their economy has grown and they have their own increased recycling needs.

“That means we have to get better at recycling,” Mr. Winkler said.

The city is trying to do more at drop off locations. In the near future, they hope to be able to accept mixed paper and cardboard, co-mingled, along with pulling out the glass and putting it in a different direction.

“We’re trying to optimize the value of all these different commodities of glass, metal and get them to the right places,” he said. “That way the city can make as much money, save as much money.”

Currently, the city captures about 16,000 tons of recycled material a year. He estimates it’s only about half of what could be recycled with the rest going into landfills.

The city concentrates on residential units of up to five units for its recycling program, above five units a private hauler is required. He said they may soon begin citing people for failing to recycle, but prefers to increase the education component first.

“On the business side, every business is required to recycle. I’m not necessarily encouraging you to write in about all the businesses that aren’t,” he said, acknowledging there are many businesses that also aren’t complying.

Environment Services is working on a $3.2 million request for 150,000 32-gallion recycling bins, enough for all city residents.

“It’s just one step toward becoming a more modern waste handling system,” Mr. Winkler said.

To a question about recycling automobile tires, he said the city isn’t required to recycle tires but it does. Residents can take up to two tires a day to one of several Public Works divisions. The closest one for Allentown would be Division 5, 1330 Hassler Street near Herschel Field in the West End.

Mr. Winkler said one of the problems with putting tires in a landfill is that they “float.” Tires will continue to rise up when placed in the landfill, causing even more problems down the line for the landfill.

He said the city pays $2 to $7 each to recycle a tire depending on the size of the tire and whether it is on a rim.

The next community meeting of the Allentown CDC will be on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 6 p.m. at the Allentown Senior Center.


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