Communities recycling lost grant money
Communities are losing thousands of dollars in state grants each year because businesses aren’t reporting how much trash they recycle.
“They’re pretty much blowing us off,” Forest Hills Manager Steve Morus said.
Although the borough received an $8,500 performance grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection last year, the amount could have been higher had businesses cooperated, Morus said.
“To be frank there’s so many ordinances out there that I can’t keep them in my head,” said Mark Kossman, operations director for Kossman Development Company, which owns office buildings in Forest Hills. “We can’t force our tenants to recycle; they take care of that on their own.”
The numbers indicate that fewer business owners are bothering. Reported commercial recycling in Forest Hills has plummeted by 80 percent, from 590 tons in 1999 to 114 tons last year, according to the Allegheny County Health Department.
That trend is mirrored in Penn Hills, though the drop-off isn’t nearly as drastic. Commercial recycling there slipped by 24 percent, from 932 tons in 2000 to 709 tons last year.
Penn Hills Planning Director Howard Davidson doubts more than five percent of businesses there report their recycling, if they recycle at all.
There are penalties for such inaction, but in Forest Hills they’re rarely enforced.
The borough can impose fines of up to $600 or a jail term of up to 30 days for repeat violators of its recycling ordinance, but no business has been fined in the three years Morus has worked there.
Officials in both municipalities say businesses might be recycling and not reporting. But that provides officials little consolation.
“It means money,” Morus said.
That’s why Forest Hills is using the help of the Pennsylvania Resources Council to inform businesses about the recycling rules.
“We highlight the benefits of recycling on a number of different platforms and explain why it is so important for businesses that do recycle to report their tonnages,” said Ginette Walker, a program coordinator with the Pennsylvania Resources Council. Walker is creating an educational flier for the businesses in the borough. The flier could be ready by November.
Bustling Monroeville saw commercial recycling climb from 4,953 tons in 2001 to 5,244 tons last year. But the municipality still is using Walker’s group to create a similar flier on recycling, according to spokeswoman Amanda Settelmaier.
Pennsylvania residents and business owners generate more than 14 million tons of waste a year, according to the National Solid Wastes Management Association. More than 50 million tons of waste — about 23 percent of the waste produced — was recycled nationwide in 2000, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Statewide, combined residential and commercial recycling tonnage has stayed relatively flat over the past three years, averaging about 2.1 million tons, according to spokesman Tom Rathbone of state Department of Environmental Protection.
Officials hope the recycling flier will help.
“The piece includes recycling facts, important phone numbers and tips on how a business can become more conservation oriented without spending a fortune,” Walker said.