PRC Executive Director Darren Spielman co-authored an opinion piece to address the current state of recycling in Pennsylvania. Working in partnership with PennEnvironment, Dr. Spielman identified shortcomings in the current system and proposed steps to improve the state’s recycling system.
On National Recycling Day, it’s time to update PA’s recycling laws
As the country celebrates National Recycling Day on November 15, what better way to celebrate than by modernizing Pennsylvania’s 35-year-old recycling law? When the PA legislature passed Act 101 in 1988, it was hailed as the nation’s most extensive recycling law and considered groundbreaking. But due to a wide variety of factors, waste generation has grown in PA by 45% between 1990 and 2018.
The good news is that it doesn’t need to be this way. After Pennsylvania Resources Council and PennEnvironment worked to identify many of the core problems in Pennsylvania’s waste management and recycling systems, we also identified the best practices and most successful technologies being used here and across the nation to solve them. We took these successful practices and created a blueprint for Pennsylvania leaders to follow, which could make Pennsylvania a national leader in recycling and solid waste today just as we were 35 years ago.
Today we offer four steps that our state can take now to improve recycling:
- RECYCLE EVERYWHERE – Require recycling and modern solid waste programs in all Pennsylvania communities, not just the 475 – just one-quarter of all PA municipalities – currently required to offer recycling to residents and businesses.
- RECYCLE MORE – Ensure that all of the common materials that are part of our waste stream in our day-to-day lives, such as cardboard, paper, glass bottles, aluminum and steel cans, and single-use plastics, are required to be collected by local recycling programs and curbside recycling efforts.
- FUND RECYCLING – Properly fund our recycling programs — not at 1988 levels — and make the producers pay for the waste they produce.
- EXPAND PROGRAMMING – We need comprehensive programs for composting (to deal with our largest source of waste: organics), for e-waste (our fastest growing waste stream), and the scourge of single-use plastics overtaking the planet.
Enhancing Pennsylvania’s recycling and solid waste efforts would have numerous benefits. Recycling is already a $22.6 billion industry that employs over 66,000 people statewide that reduces our carbon footprint equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road each year. For our health, environment, and the economy, we must recommit to reducing, reusing, and recycling across our commonwealth.