While wide-scale recycling changes that went into effect in Lancaster County more than a year ago, there is still tons of room for improvement because of the longstanding realities of recycling and trash collecting that many don’t understand or haven’t acted on. “We have moved the needle, as a community, ever so slightly,” said Katie Sandoe of the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. Although aware to some extent that recycling has changed, many people are still engaging in what she called “wishful recycling”: putting in things in the bin that they hope can be recycled but actually shouldn’t be there.
Here’s a quick overview of what people should do, from Sandoe and Mike Devaney of Lancaster city’s bureau of solid waste and recycling.
Only the Big 4 should go in household recycling bins:
- corrugated cardboard
- plastic bottles and jugs with a neck
- metal food and beverage cans
- glass bottles and jars.
They need to be clean, and the lids should be thrown away. Nothing else belongs in the bin, even if it has a recycling symbol on it. Authority staff and volunteers spent five weeks doing a test program in one neighborhood, inspecting bins and tagging them “Yay” for correct recycling or “Oops” if they contained items that didn’t belong. It took a lot of resources but was pretty successful: the percentage of households recycling correctly rose from 53% to 87%. “We’re hoping to scale that pilot and do it in more areas sometime this summer,” Sandoe said.
The authority has a household hazardous waste facility at 1299 Harrisburg Pike, Lancaster, where Lancaster County residents can drop off qualifying items for free during operating hours. A full list is at lcswma.org/household-hazardous-waste-disposal/ and includes everything from batteries, fluorescent bulbs and paint to pesticides and household cleaners. Devaney said one category of things that belongs there but people often incorrectly put out with the trash is electronics — old TVs, computers and cell phones.