Erie County is changing its recycling program, causing citizens to have fewer opportunities to recycle.
Brittany Prischak, the county’s sustainability coordinator, says that these changes will depend on where you live in the Erie County community.
Glass, plastic bags, shredded paper and bagged recyclables are the products that will no longer be able to be recycled. Recycling companies are eliminating these products because of their use of single-stream recycling, meaning residents combine rather than separate all recyclables. This process is convenient, but it also adds extra layers to the process for the waste hauler. They have to do manual or mechanical separation of the materials.
“The exclusion of glass is unfortunate but really is a response to the problems glass has caused in the recycling stream for a long time,” said Sarah Bennett, chair of the Biology Department and the Mercyhurst Sustainability Club. “Glass breaks into small pieces that get filtered out of the stream quickly but get mixed with other small items in the stream. My hope is that a new, separate stream for glass will be created somehow.”
The new program recommends using bins and totes when getting rid of these materials, but residents of the City of Erie should still use blue or clear plastic bags for their recyclables. Some acceptable plastics are bottles and jugs. For paper, only full sheets of office paper, magazines and newspaper will be accepted.
“The plastic bags and shredded paper have been excluded from the stream for a long time,” Bennett said. “I’m surprised the Erie Times article described them as new exclusions. Plastic bags can and should be recycled at grocery store collection bins. An even better option is to buy reusable bags and use those instead.”
Carly La Riviere, a sophomore history major with a focus in public history, responded to the changes for the Erie environment.
“While we are unsure how exactly this will affect things at Mercyhurst, I would say that these new procedures are what is best for the university, given the current recycling situation in Erie,” LaRiviere said. “Although any decision that reduces sustainability is regrettable, it is a necessary sacrifice we will have to make until a better solution can be found.”
Bennett suggested ways on how people can be more environmentally conscious with these new restrictions. She suggested to pay attention to signs in order to recycle correctly and avoid contaminating the stream, to reduce consumption of throwaway items like bottled beverages and disposable utensils and purchase reusable items like water bottles, coffee mugs and grocery bags.
It is recommended that you contact your local municipality if there is still any confusion on what you can and cannot recycle.
Bennett encourages all people to be more aware of their consumption and recyclables as a community.
“We are going to continue to see recycling changes because the global market has changed. It’s sad that recycling is getting more difficult but at the same time, it was never the best thing we could do for the environment,” Bennett said. “The best thing we can do is reduce our consumption and waste.”