Philadelphia growing pickier about recycling efforts

Allison Sands, community outreach coordinator for Recyclebank in Philadelphia, had some good news and bad news for residents during the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association’s monthly meeting on Nov. 19.

The good news is that curbside recycling has become almost second nature to most Philadelphians, resulting in a tremendous reduction in the percentage of residential waste that ends up in landfills. Unfortunately, the growing volume of recyclable materials has created somewhat of a glut in the market. Whereas the city used to be able to profit on its recyclables by selling them to processing facilities, those same facilities have become pickier about the loads they are willing to buy and the rates they will pay. So the city isn’t making money on its recycling program at the moment.

As a result, the Recyclebank — which administers the city’s Recycling Rewards program — has changed its emphasis from quantity to quality. By coaching residents to avoid placing undesirable materials into their single-stream recycling bins, the Recyclebank and the city hope to improve the quality and the market value of the materials collected. According to Sands, uncontaminated loads are easier and less expensive for recycling facilities to process.

On the residential end, that means homeowners should be more particular about what they put into their recycling bins for curbside pickup.

Plastic shopping bags don’t belong in the recycling bin, nor do empty snack food bags because of the waxy covering and grease. Greasy pizza boxes — even the paper ones — should also be discarded with the regular rubbish, not with recycling.

Additional no-nos include Styrofoam, wax-covered coffee cups, food waste, organic garbage and electronics.

This is not to say that all empty cans and jars must be spotless. Sands said she usually rinses out empty food containers before placing them in the recycling bin, but it’s generally not necessary to give them a full wash.

In general, single stream recycling should be limited to metal cans and lids; plastic bottles and containers, including the lids; glass bottles and jars; and paper and cardboard (as long as they are not contaminated with grease or a waxy covering).

Sands recommends that residents should err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure about an item, put it in the trash container, not in the recycling bin. On the other hand, if a Streets Department inspector finds a recyclable item in a trash bag, the resident might end up with a $50 fine for not recycling.Sands acknowledged that a city ordinance passed in 1984 (it was the first municipal recycling ordinance in the nation) may need updating to reflect the evolution of the city’s recycling program.

Even without the city’s recycling program producing revenue, residents can still profit through the Recycling Rewards program. Those who register are eligible for gift certificates and discounts from a myriad of partner businesses. For information about the rewards program and about recycling in general, visit PhillyRecyclingPays.com or call 888–727–2978.

In other Upper Holmesburg news:

• The Philadelphia Housing Authority did not discuss or act on its pending bidding process involving the redevelopment of the former Liddonfield Homes housing project during PHA’s board of commissioners meeting on Thursday, Nov.19. The next board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 17, at 3 p.m. at 12 S. 23rd St.

• Chris Creelman, chief of staff for City Councilman Bobby Henon, reported that an ordinance to ban truck parking on Torresdale Avenue between Linden Avenue and Rhawn Street was scheduled for a hearing in Council on Monday. If passed, the bill could be in effect by January. ••