Many countries around the world celebrate May 17 as “International Recycling Day,” a reminder to people everywhere that reducing, reusing and recycling has benefits both environmental and economic.
Clearfield County Recycling Coordinator Jodi Brennan said many factors contribute to the failure of many to recycle, such as limited time, convenience and cost, and simply just being a society that relies on the disposing of things.
There are the basics — recycling helps reduce waste, pollution, resources and expenses, along with using less energy and benefiting the environment. What people may not realize is how the saving and reusing of resources provides many industry and manufacturing jobs, Brennan said.
“Recycling supports material for manufacturing,” she said. “Those natural resources are limited, and all of that stuff makes extra energy. So you’re actually saving money and industry jobs.”
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, recycling creates about 66,041 jobs in the state. The entire recycling process, including collecting, sorting, refining, converting and the refurbishing and repairing of electronics, creates those jobs.
People may not realize the disposal of simple things like wrapping paper or even leaves, grass clippings and yard waste can contribute to high disposal costs.
Recycling services in low-populated areas do tend to be more expensive because of things like transportation and labor costs, Brennan said. But landfilling large quantities of waste can cost a lot of money as well.
People can do more to eliminate waste than they realize, Brennan said, such as simply having a yard sale or contributing to a flea market, rather than throwing those items away.
“This is a great and easy way to make extra money and not throw more things away,” she said.
It also helps to buy products from local places such as farmers markets or places with fresh produce — items with less packaging materials, Brennan said.
“Buying local is another way to do your part, and it’s good for the economy,” she said. “This has environmental benefits (as well), because you’re buying local food and produce, not having to drive food in from somewhere else.”
Since Brennan has started working for the Clearfield County Solid Waste Authority, she has seen recycling numbers go up, but they tend to fluctuate, she said. One of those increases was seen when the Walmart Distribution Center arrived locally.
Landfilling large items or large quantities of things can be a high cost for businesses like grocery stores or distribution centers, so they tend to recycle those items instead.
Annual reports in the year 2016 showed that Clearfield County disposed of 47,144 tons of waste, and recycled 20,206 tons of materials, which can be equivalent to conserving 6,583,118 gallons of gasoline or 2,437,674 cylinders of propane used for home barbecues, according to an online EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) model.
The EPA model can be used by anyone to see what their recycled items convert to, such as electricity or something for the environment, other than a landfill, Brennan said.
A big issue Clearfield County currently faces is being unable to landfill electronics like computers and old televisions, Brennan said. Although state law requires that free recycling outlets be provided for those items, there are none, and those items are often dumped instead of recycled.
The CCSWA holds a spring and fall manufacturing event, giving people with electronics a place to take them, Brennan said.
“Trying to find folks economic and convenient options is key to making recycling work,” she said.
The Clearfield County Drop-off Recycling Program offers local drop off locations — including the Clearfield County Jail, the Brady Township Municipal Building in Luthersburg and the Penfield Volunteer Fire Department in Penfield — where people can take items such as metal cans, clear glass bottles and jars, newspapers, mixed paper, and cardboard.