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Waste Management recycling to undergo changes in Sewickley, elsewhere

August 6, 2018

Recycling center

International changes in the market for recyclable materials have been a source of concern for recycling companies this year.

Soon, the effects of China’s ban on 24 recyclables, combined with new contamination limits, will hit home for Waste Management customers.

According to Erika Deyarmin-Young, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, Chinese policy has caused an oversupply of recyclables, as countries search for alternative markets. As China becomes more selective about what it accepts, Waste Management has followed suit, and the company now wants customers to stop putting plastic bags and glass in the recycling bin.

“Markets have definitely been dwindling for the past couple years, especially now with what we’re seeing coming out of China,” Deyarmin-Young said. “It’s just really made recyclers take a look at the types of material they’re collecting,”

Plastic bags, which Waste Management considers a contaminant, always have posed difficulties. They frequently get stuck in the sizing screens Waste Management uses to sort materials and prevent recyclers from making a quality bale, Deyarmin-Young said.

She also said drivers are spot-checking commercial recycling containers at the curb, and that Waste Management plans to start enforcing contamination requirements next year.

Starting in January 2019, “if a driver identifies a load as heavily contaminated, we will not service it as recycling, and the customer may face a monetary penalty,” Deyarmin-Young said in an email.

Matthew Doebler, president of the Aleppo Township board of commissioners, said that plastic bags have never been recyclable in the township, when it comes to curbside collection.

“Waste Management told me last year that if they could get everybody to make one change in their recycling habits, it would be to stop putting plastic bags in their single-stream recycling,” Doebler said.

Regarding glass, Deyarmin-Young said that Waste Management faces limited markets and is trying to get residents to remove it from recycling bins. However, she said her company “will honor any contract that requires us to take glass.”

Local municipalities are trying to educate their residents and help them find alternative recycling outlets, in some cases.

Edgeworth Borough Manager John Schwend said residents can drop off plastic bags in a designated receptacle at the borough’s recycling center.

Sewickley plans to post a notice about recent recycling changes on its website, Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said.

Both plastic bags and glass are still very much recyclable, even though they present challenges for single-stream facilities.

Deymarin-Young encourages people to visit a site called Earth911.com to find locations that accept materials like glass and plastic bags.

“Residents can still take the (plastic) bags to Giant Eagle or Target, where they have those drop-off locations,” she added.

Municipalities that use other recycling companies haven’t seen the same changes yet.

But Borough Manager Stephen Beuter of Carnegie said that “there may be some changes in the near future,” based on information he has received from the borough’s contractor, Allied Waste Services.

Deyarmin-Young said she doesn’t expect the market situation for recyclables to improve anytime soon and indicated that her company, Waste Management, is constrained by market conditions.

“To make something recyclable, it has to be easily collected, easily sorted and there has to be a market for it, and that last one’s incredibly important,” she said.

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