The South Hills Area Council of Governments is seeking an extension for the start of its member municipalities possibly facing penalties concerning recycling.
New contracts went into effect at the start of the year between SHACOG municipalities – including Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township, South Fayette and Upper St. Clair – and Waste Management Inc.
“The way the contract is currently written, on Jan. 1 of 2020, the waste hauler is permitted to start levying penalties against the municipalities for contaminated recycling collections,” Ian McMeans, Mt. Lebanon assistant municipal manager, said.
He addressed Mt. Lebanon commissioners during their July 9 discussion session to provide details about a recent meeting attended by representatives of Waste Management and SHACOG members.
A primary topic of conversation for the Mt. Lebanon-hosted meeting involved the approaching penalty phase. A subsequent letter from the council of governments to Waste Management requested that implementation be pushed back six months, to allow for sufficient communication to residents.
“It was incumbent of Waste Management as part of the contract to begin public education and tagging efforts on Jan. 1, 2019,” McMeans said. “Those efforts have not commenced until July.”
Waste Management drivers have begun placing tags on recycling bins that contain items that shouldn’t be there, such as glass, plastic bags and pizza boxes. But according to McMeans, the initial efforts took place only in Mt. Lebanon, Elizabeth Borough and Moon Township.
“The drivers are not actually going through people’s bins,” he said. “It’s basically if they open the bid and see something on top, then they’ll put a tag on it.”
The hope is that residents then use more discretion about what they put out for recycling, and by extension, help their municipalities avoid paying more for Waste Management services.
McMeans had asked representatives of the company about the procedure for determining if loads of recycled materials are contaminated.
“From the statements they made at the meeting, basically a truck is going to come in,” he told commissioners. “They’re going to dump it on the floor of the recycling facility, and they’re going to have a load inspector there to basically just do a visual inspection of the load that’s dumped.”
If the amount of material on the no-recycle list appears to be more than 40 percent, the load will be rejected.
Public works director Rudy Sukal, though, said he received information that nothing the Waste Management drivers have encountered so far in Mt. Lebanon would qualify for rejection.
“You can’t really hang your hat on that, but that’s what they’re telling us,” he said. “But we can still do better. We can always do better.”
Toward that objective, the public information office continues to spread the words about the do’s and don’ts of recycling in Mt. Lebanon, through print and social media, the municipal website and other avenues.
Public information officer Laura Pace Lilley also called commissioners’ attention to ReCollect, a website and digital application that pertains to refuse collection.
“It’s what some communities have used to make it very clear to their residents what their schedule is, what they can recycle, what they can’t,” she explained. “There’s room for the town to make an announcement. So any time we have weather-related items or something that we need to tell them, that will come up as soon as they open the app.”
The cost, she said, would be $9,500 annually, with no start-up fee. While some commissioners agreed that they like the concept, they questioned whether enough residents would use ReCollect to justify the expenditure.