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“Trash talk” a lesson in what to throw and where to throw


It was a night for trash talk Tuesday at the Solebury Township Municipal Building.

Some 40 residents gathered to hear experts on recycling sponsored by the township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC).

Addressing the Recycling Forum were Jason Leck, executive vice president and owner of Leck Waste Services; Patty Barthel, public affairs representative for Waste Management hauler; and Patti Lynn, planner-recycling coordinator for the Bucks County Planning Commission.

“We have witnessed new phrases creeping into our vocabulary such as single-stream or multi-stream recycling. I heard of a new phrase, wishful recycling ... (that) is the moment when you are standing over trash containers and deciding whether the item you have in your hand is recyclable,” said Supervisor Kevin Morrissey, liaison to the EAC.

“Part of you thinks it is not, but there is another portion of you, the ‘wishful’ part that believes it could be. Consequently, it is thrown into the recycle bin only to be pulled out by the recycler further down the process – wishful recycling.

“Of course this reflects our increasing confusion with this process. I am certain at the end of this evening, we all will be doing less ‘wishful recycling’ and more actual recycling.”

Recycling was mandated in the state in 1988, said Leck, but the problem was contamination – people were throwing in garbage with recyclables and much of it was shipped to China where inspection was lax.

“In December 2017, 1,500 U.S. (shipping) containers of ‘recyclables’ a day were shipped to China,” Leck said.

And that’s when the Chinese said “no more” and implemented Operation Green Fence and inspected 70 percent of the containers. If they contained garbage, they had to be shipped back to the U.S.

“They kind of changed the game on us,” Leck said, but that eventually forced the industry to “find a better way.”

In 2017 China took 27 percent of Waste Management’s trash, in 2018 it was less than 3 percent, said Barthel.

Each person, she said, throws out 4.7 pounds of waste a day, that collectively totals 475 billion pounds a year of which 50 percent is recyclable.

Not all trash is equal. Not everything decomposes at the same rate. For example, she said: an aluminum can takes 200-500 years to go away, a tin can can take 80 to 100 years, a cigarette butt 2 to 5 years, a sock only takes 1 year, but glass and a foam cup last forever.

On the other hand, it takes 75 percent less energy to make a recycled bottle, and in 60 days an aluminum can can be recycled into another aluminum can.

One in four items placed in recycle bins are not recyclable, Barthel said, such as rubber hoses, the 5,000 bowling balls misdirected to the bins each year, or the 28,000 pounds of batteries – the largest source of fires – tossed out in 2017.

County Recycling Coordinator Lynn said recycling should be considered at the supermarket. For example, avoid over-packaged items, buy items that come in recycled packages, buy only what you need, and thankfully, grapefruit comes in its own package.

Supervisor Morrissey thanked EAC member Christy Cheever for coordinating the Recycling Forum and said the township is reviewing plastic regulation for Solebury.

He said said the EAC is working with the township solicitor to develop a draft ordinance and will share that with the community for its feedback.