Harrisburg: glass is trash, paper is gold

Harrisburg, P.a. — (WHTM-TV)

“Glass is trash, paper is gold.” Harrisburg is asking residents to break old habits and throw all glass in the trash while expanding other recyclables.

If you do a YouTube search for old ‘Sesame Street’ recycling clips, you’re bound to see ‘Oscar the Grouch’ or cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s discuss the importance of recycling glass.

On the 45th Earth Day celebration on Wednesday, Harrisburg told residents to forget Sesame Street lessons.

“Glass is trash, paper is gold,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

He along with Harrisburg Recycle Coordinator John Rarig, explained that when glass is collected in what’s called a ‘single-stream’ process, much of the glass breaks and contaminates the other recyclables.

Rarig also said recycling glass did not have the cost-benefit as first thought it would about 30 years ago. And, the City claims studies show glass is not harmful to the environment when put in the trash.

“Glass is also not a detriment to the environment,” Papenfuse said. “It won’t leech into the soil, it won’t cause a problem.”

But, because much of Restaurant Row has a large quantity of glass, especially after a weekend, the city will still collect glass commercially.

“If you are a bar or a business that produces an extraordinary amount of glass, we will pick up that glass and recycle it,” said the mayor.

Any penalty for not recycling glass is “later down the road”, but the City hopes education will work before the possibility of citations.

Those who wish to still recycle glass can do so at the Uptown Plaze or the incinerator.

Papenfuse said besides trashing glass, the city is expanding what’s accepted in the recycling program.

“Paper is the big deal,” said Rarig.

Harrisburg asks residents to put just about every paper product imaginable into the recycling. On a table inside City Hall, there were examples such as: newspapers, magazines, junk mail, office papers, and juice cartons.

“And, modern wine cartons,” Rarig added.

He also asked people to flatten non-waxy cardboard and toss that into the blue bins. Cardboard includes corrugated and cereal boxes minus the wax liners.

Harrisburg expanded plastics as well. What was once a ‘one through five’ acceptance now includes plastics up to “number 7s”. This is indicated by the small label on plastic products, typically on the bottom.

Plastic recyclable examples include shampoo and ketchup bottles, detergent container, yogurt cups, and salad containers.

Residents are also asked to include most tin and steel products such as; soup cans, soda cans, aerosol cans, and washed out paint cans.

To accommodate the expanded materials, Harrisburg has big blue barrels on order that will be issued to city residences later this year. Until then, residents are able to pick up the smaller blue bins inside city hall.

Most business was issued large black containers that can accommodate more recyclable materials. Papenfuse said the city is looking to get commercial properties on board with public services and get them away from private contracts.

A representative with HACC said the school made a decision to use Harrisburg for waste disposal.

When asked about the possibility of bidding out to private trash services, the mayor said studies were done before he took office. Papenfuse said private haulers charge more than if services are kept in-house.

According to the incinerator deal and the Recovery Plan, Harrisburg is required to “put of pay” or dispose an annual 35,000 tons of waste. Papenfuse believed the city will meet the requirement despite the recycling changes.

The mayor argues putting glass in the trash is not an incentive to waste more, but a cost-efficient method to expand the recycling program.

Rarig said Harrisburg City recycles about 20-25 percent of its waste, more than most municipalities. According to him, that number could be even better.

Papenfuse said making the required changes will prove to turn trash to treasure.

“We made this change with my family and I’m telling you we are probably triple the recycling,” he said.

There is more information on what can be recycled on the city’s website.

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