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Recycling pays off for communities

In a strange twist, the price of water and sewer service in Moon can be tied directly to how much trash is recycled in the township — specifically, commercial recycling.

That’s because the township — like about 800 other communities in Pennsylvania — is rewarded by the state Department of Environmental Protection with grants based on the number of tons of trash they recycle.

“That helps to keep the cost down of what we charge our customers,” said Marlane McGinnis, controller for the Moon Municipal Authority, which handles recycling for the township.

Municipalities have an incentive to seek higher amounts of commercial recycling: Simply, it means more money.

Every ton of residential recycling reported to the state is worth $5 toward that community’s grant. Communities also get $5 per ton if a they report the same amount of commercial recycling as residential. But every commercial ton in excess of the residential amount is worth $10 a ton.

“It would be lucrative to enhance commercial recyclables because they figure into the performance grants,” said Kurt Knaus, the DEP’s press secretary.

Knaus said 1,580 communities are eligible for the grants statewide. About 800 apply each year. The average grant is $27,772, he said. The application deadline for the grants is Friday.

But some communities find getting recycling numbers from businesses difficult, even though in many cases it’s a municipal requirement.

In Forest Hills, borough officials are using the Pennsylvania Resources Council to draft a brochure to inform businesses about the recycling rules. Business owners there are largely ignoring a part of the borough’s recycling ordinance that requires them to report to the borough how much trash they recycle annually.

“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.

In the South Hills, several communities had similar troubles before ultimately relying solely upon garbage haulers to report their figures.

“At one time, we had started to send information out to all the commercial establishments, but that didn’t prove very successful,” said McGinnis, the Moon official. “People are busy and there are a lot of small companies.”

But relying on haulers to report stats has helped. The township’s grants have risen incrementally from $3,000 in 1993 to $12,238 for 2001, the grant received last year.

West Mifflin Manager Howard Bednar said officials occasionally have to remind businesses to report recycling figures. “All I have to do is have your collector get in touch with West Mifflin and say how much you recycled,” Bednar said. “Most of the refuse companies … they all know what the requirements are.”

West Mifflin received $14,447 in 1994. Last year it received $33,250 — all of which goes into the borough’s general fund, Bednar said.

“It’s free money,” Bednar said. “You don’t have to do a lot for it.”

Additional Information:

The law

According to state law:

  • Communities that have a population of 10,000 or more are required to recycle.
  • Communities that have between 5,000 and 10,000 are required to recycle if they have more than 300 people per square mile.
  • Communities required to recycle must educate and at least twice a year remind residents — via newsletters or other means — that they must recycle.


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