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Pa.’s 30-year-old recycling policy needs to be updated, experts say

  • By Megan Frank/WLVR


Some environmentalists say it’s time for Pennsylvania to update its approach to reducing waste.

It has been more than 30 years, they say, since the commonwealth updated its recycling goals, which were created at a time when recyclable items were mostly paper and glass.

In 1988, Pennsylvania broke ground when it passed Act 101, the recycling policy aimed to reduce waste. More than 1,000 curbside programs cropped up as a result.

But in a recent study, the Pennsylvania Resources Council found that the state’s waste has grown by 45% per capita.

Darren Spielman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, says Pennsylvanians likely couldn’t imagine all of the plastic and e-waste of today.

“They did not anticipate the acceleration of our throw-away culture. We need to get to a point where the choices in front of people are sustainable,” said Spielman.

Faran Savitz, a Zero Waste advocate with PennEnvironment, an environmental advocacy group who co-sponsored the study, said the study found that Pennsylvania should make recycling funds available for all municipalities.

“Communities that are smaller don’t have the same resources as say Philadelphia, or even Allentown and Bethlehem,” said Savitz.  “It’ll help them do these programs efficiently, make sure that their citizens recycle and really help.”

The study also concluded that Pennsylvanians need more recycling education.  It found that many people toss things into recycling bins that can’t actually be recycled.

Savitz calls that “wish-cycling.”

“Recycling can get expensive, especially when people put stuff that’s non-recyclable into their recycling.  The term is wish-cycling.  If people wish-cycle, then it makes the process complicated and expensive,” said Savitz.

To learn more about recycling in Pennsylvania, visit the state’s recycling website.

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