Starting Jan. 1, glass and some plastics will no longer be accepted in recycling bins in 22 South Hills communities, including Moon Township, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair. This is because a new Waste Management contract will go into effect, and the company is trying to move away from recycling glass.
Erica Deyarmin-Young, a public affairs coordinator with Waste Management, said processing glass is time consuming and expensive for the company.
"When we pull glass out of the recycling stream we must run it through two additional processors to get the quality required [to recycle]," she said. "This process is costly and produces a low quality material. Glass also runs very hard on our sorting equipment, which increases maintenance costs."
Justin Stockdale, western regional director at the Pennsylvania Resource Council, said glass probably should never have been introduced into single stream recycling. If it breaks, it contaminates other materials.
"So the broken glass ends up in a bale of newspaper," he explained. "The newspaper goes to a paper mill, the paper mill then needs to deal with the glass that they never wanted and don't have systems to manage for."
These contaminated materials often wind up in landfills. Stockdale said an ideal solution would be for either Waste Management or the South Hills communities to open an alternative glass recycling checkpoint.
This sentiment is echoed by Jessica Dunn of Mt. Lebanon; she said she and others active in a local Facebook group are frustrated about the change, and would like a drop-off point.
"That's what people are wanting to do and many people have said yes, let's push for it," Dunn said.
The South Hills Area Chamber of Governments negotiated the contract with Waste Management. Lou Gorski, the group's executive director, said the contract was chosen because it was the least expensive of the bids. However, he said he has heard the complaints from residents that glass recycling will stop.
"There are apparently a couple of smaller operations that may be interested in taking the glass," Gorski said. "But that's yet to be determined and we have very little concrete information on that at this time."
Gorski said if an alternative glass processing system is established, it would probably be through drop-off points, not pick up.
Residents of communities affected by the change will still be able to recycle aluminum, cardboard, tin and plastics with a No. 1 or No. 2 on the bottom.