Understanding the Waste Stream

March 5, 2019

Written by Amanda Weaver

In July of 2018, recycling as we knew it changed for Lancaster County. Things that we used to recycle, like newspapers and take-out food containers, became no longer recyclable due to a new policy in China. But what caused this change in Lancaster? What happens to all the things that we used to recycle?

Residents were attentive to this change when they started seeing how big the shift was from recycling to regular trash.   In just six months they could see the difference and they were troubled, not knowing if the change was helping or hurting the earth. With this sudden change and no explanation about why this change occurred, caring was inevitable. The Cottage Council and the Apartment Council decided to express their concerns to Garden Spot Village’s Environmental Team. The team and a couple of residents got together in an effort to understand the reasons for the change.

A visit to the Lancaster Country Solid Waste Management Authority was then put onto the agenda. A group of six team members went to figure out the change on January 22, but to do so, they had to visit three places. The Incinerator, the Transfer Center and the Recycling Center. This is what the men learned from their trip.

The waste stream starts at the Transfer Center where everything is brought and sorted. Items that are meant for recycling are then taken to a private company, Penn Waste. Penn Waste sorts through and tries to find places that will reuse the items. They also accept bigger items that the garbage truck won’t take, like old appliances, batteries, and old electronics. Garden Spot Village also will take old metal items, like gas grills and recycle them.

If the item is not recyclable, it goes to the incinerator. Operating 24/7, the incinerator takes ten truckloads of trash for each burning. The trash from the incinerator is then converted into energy. There is so much energy that it can light 30,000 homes in Lancaster County.

“Although it takes time to break old habits, people finally understand what is happening to their waste and why the change is so important and good,” says Fran Rapp, who represented the Cottage Council on this trip. “It’s reassuring to know that some good is coming out of the waste that humans create.” Garden Spot Village has future plans to take a trip to the LCSWMA and bring those who wish to learn and see for themselves.

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