Like many residents of Lancaster County, I was slightly distressed and very disappointed by the recent recycling changes, though I bear no ill will toward the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. I understand LCSWMA is simply doing its best to respond to a collapse in the recycling market.
However, I do take issue with its latest campaign, in which LCSWMA encourages everyone to throw everything else away, while trying to soothe our consciences by reassuring us that the waste is converted into energy.
First of all, though I agree that burning trash to produce energy seems like a good alternative to filling up more landfills, the environmental impact of waste-to-energy incinerators is unclear at best. Second of all, burning our trash should be an option that comes after reducing, reusing and recycling. Our first effort should always be to reduce our waste.
I’d like to see a campaign urging people to reduce their trash by composting; buying fewer items that are wrapped or packed in plastic; buying from bulk bins, farmers ormarkets with reusable containers; and reusing whatever they can. Lastly, we should still prioritize recycling. There are some great resources for mail-in recycling programs, such as TerraCycle, that accept everything from chip bags to toothpaste tubes to drink pouches.
We have other options rather than doubling (or tripling) our trash loads. I hope that we’ll pursue those alternatives, as individuals and as a community.