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MOUNT LEBANON (KDKA) — The dawning of a new year has brought a major change to 21 communities in the South Hills and sent KDKA “recycle diving” on Thursday to see if people are getting the message.

Clearly, many have, but we still found a lot of bottles in the recycle bins. Not an issue a week ago, but it is today.

What you can recycle has changed dramatically.

“Glass is being removed from single stream collections, not just the Pittsburgh area, but all across Pennsylvania,” says Justin Stockdale, of the Pennsylvania Resource Council.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Mt. Lebanon resident Jim Carse says, “It’s hard to get used to. It seems that is something we should be able to recycle.”

Julie Ann Sullivan was a bit more blunt.

“I think we are going back to the dark ages. I can’t believe we can’t recycle glass,” she said.

Stockdale says the single stream recycling where everything goes into a single bin has created a mess for the recycling plants.

“You’re basically scrambling an egg and the recycling facility has to unscramble that egg. I’ve not met anybody who can unscramble an egg, so we’re asking recycling facilities to do an impossible task,” Stockdale said.

The mishmash of recyclables degrades the value of everything being recycled, so removing the glass gives everything a chance. And Stockdale says its not just glass the recyclers say they no longer want.

“You’re clam shells that a salad comes in, the to-go containers, it might say ‘number one plastic’ on the bottom, but the facilities are saying, ‘We don’t want that stuff anymore,” he said.

When it comes to plastic, he says the recyclers only want “bottles, jugs and jars, is the language they’re using. The conventional wisdom is it has to be a narrower top than the body of the container.”

KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:


Erica Young, from Waste Management, says they will have drivers out in the impacted communities doing some “recycle diving” of their own.

If they find things that should not be there, she says, “The driver is going to leave behind a tag that identifies what contamination they have and what steps they can take next. Starting in 2020, there are going to be monetary penalties.”

Amounts and who will be fined have not been determined.

Communities are trying to come up with collection points where people can bring and recycle their glass, but until then, the word is put it in the trash.

This is a trend, not an anomaly, and as recycling contracts are renewed in more communities, similar changes are expected until everyone is under the same “no glass” rule.

For now, the mandate is only for Shaler Township, Butler Township, and the following South Hills communities: Baldwin, Bethel Park, Brentwood, Castle Shannon, Dormont, Elizabeth Township, Findlay, Heidelberg, Jefferson Hills, Moon, Mt. Lebanon, Peters, Scott, South Fayette, South Park, Upper St. Clair and Whitehall.

If you have a question check with your local municipality or waste hauler.