Launch Slideshow

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Taking a diversion

Taking a diversion

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    Photo: Nestle Purina PetCare Co.

    Springfield, Mo.'s paper is collected at recycling centers and then unloaded in the Nestle Purina PetCare plant.

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    Photo: Carl Hursh, DEP Waste Reduction & Recycling Program

    Philadelphia's pilot RecycleBank program collects recyclable materials with a curbside pickup. Here, the container is being lifted and weighed on a city recycling truck. Pennsylvania has a high diversion rate compared to other states.

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    Photo: Carl Hursh, DEP Waste Reduction & Recycling Program

    Making recycling easy for residents is key to increasing diversion rates. In the Harrisburg (Pa.) International Airport's new terminal, public recycling containers are scattered around the facility.

Reusing Waste

In other parts of Missouri, a 45% diversion rate was reached in 1998. According to Dennis Hansen, solid waste management program planning unit chief with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, banning certain items from curbside collection increased the state's diversion rate. “We banned things like yard waste, tires, batteries, oil, and large appliances,” he said. His department partnered with solid waste management districts and recycling associations to help encourage and educate residents.

Banning yard and food waste can have a significant impact on the amount of refuse that is hauled off to a landfill. “Organics present a significant opportunity for increased waste diversion and economic gain,” said Pennsylvania's Young. “More than 30% of the typical municipal waste stream is yard waste, food waste, and other organic material that could be recycled and composted, rather than being added to landfills. These organic waste streams can become a resource to facilities that market compost and mulch.”

Cities may opt to develop compost sites, train residents to start their own compost heap, or use yard waste like fallen trees to mulch city property. “For individuals, we continue to support backyard composting as a means of waste reduction,” said Young. “By the end of spring 2005, workshops conducted by the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners and other county-level programs will have trained more than 50,000 people in composting techniques.”

Some departments are using unique methods of waste reuse. “Another success story might be that we are currently transitioning from paying to have our glass recycled to stockpiling it internally for crushing and subsequent use in glasphalt paving projects,” said Lucks. “We have been very innovative in finding ways to make our program more efficient, less costly, and more sustainable.”

Those brilliant scientists may simply determine that reuse is the key to reduction. “The future of recycling relies on stable markets for recovered materials and for goods made with recycled inputs,” said Young. Pennsylvania, for example, has established a Recycling Markets Center with Penn State University to provide expertise in ensuring the quantity and quality of the recycling supply, and to offer best management practices in the use of recycled materials in the manufacturing of products in Pennsylvania, and eventually around the world.