Trash Day

Trash Day

It’s trash day here in our section of the city. Looking up and down the block at all of the cans and bags holding a week’s worth of garbage, then mentally multiplying that by all of the cans and bags in all of the other sections of the city makes my head spin.

I’d been feeling pretty virtuous about how little waste we generate in our household until No Impact Week a few weeks ago. Part of the No Impact Experiment is to stockpile every disposable item you generate or receive for a week then spend some time looking at and analyzing where it all comes from. It was sobering! Junk mail was the worst for us, with food packaging a close second.

Luckily, the day before No Impact Week started, a neighbor and I had gone to a composting workshop together. The workshop was offered through LIVE Green, a terrific organization focused on improving the environmental sustainability of Lancaster city. So, we are now the proud co-owners of a ComposTumbler (made right here in Lancaster!) We set it up so that a bunch of our other neighbors can use it too. It takes food scraps, leaf and grass clippings, and small amounts of shredded paper out of the mix of waste that we generate. Still, we have a long way to go to reduce our “trash footprint.”

Recycling helps. Here in the city, we’re required to recycle glass containers, aluminum and steel cans, plastic bottles, newspapers and “leaf and woody materials.” Those items are picked up curbside. But in Etown, we had curbside pickup of cardboard and office paper/junk paper as well. I’ve had to do a little looking around to find out where to recycle those items around here.

Good’s Disposal on Oregon Pike just north of the Brownstown 222 intersection recycles junk mail, magazines, phone books and cardboard. They allow the general public to drop off these items for recycling on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month, from 7am – noon.

Then there are the specialty items – like the compact fluorescent lightbulbs we started using a while back to reduce our electricity consumption. Those can’t be thrown in the trash. Luckily, we have the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority’s (LCSWMA) Household Hazardous Waste Facility here in Lancaster to collect things like computers, cell phones, batteries, house paint, motor oil, insecticides, glues, fluorescent bulbs and mercury thermometers. Their facility is at 1299 Harrisburg Pike and it’s open to the public Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm and Sat 8am-noon for drop-off of these items.

LCSWMA uses an “Integrated System” for handling the more than half a million tons of waste generated in Lancaster County every year. Approximately 39% of all of the waste generated in the county is recyclables, so curbside recycling and drop-off centers around the county are a critical piece of the puzzle. Of the non-recyclable waste we all generate, about 58% of it has “energy value”, which means that LCSWMA can turn it into renewable electricity by burning it at their “Waste-to-Energy” facility. The electricity they generate through this process is enough to power about 30,000 Lancaster County households (that’s about 1 in 6 Lanc Co homes). The remaining 3% of waste goes into the landfill. And even at the landfill, they have a “landfill gas to energy” process where the gases that are created by materials at the landfill are captured to generate electricity. It’s actually a very cool setup, very impressive, and LCSWMA has won quite a few awards for their work. You can learn more about how all of it works here.

Several months ago, I had seen the documentary Waste Land, about the world’s largest landfill. It was incredibly sobering to see all of that trash (though the documentary itself is wonderfully uplifting and inspiring – I highly recommend it!) At least here in Lancaster, it’s good to know that we have great environmental sustainability initiatives through LIVE Green, LCSWMA, and other groups dedicated to improving the environmental sustainability of Lancaster City and Lancaster County.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep trying to do my own little part to be less trash-y. Hope you will too!

PS – if it finally warms up later this week (weatherman says sunny & 70 tomorrow!), I fully intend to implement THIS recommendation from No Impact Man!! My favorite hangout, Chestnut Hill Cafe just happens to carry my favorite ice cream – Carmen and David’s!! (do I get bonus points for “buying fresh/buying local”??)


Here’s a great article from one of my favorite magazines, YES! Magazine (their motto is “Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions”): 42 Ways to Not Make Trash

And if you want to find out where you can recycle more of what your household generates, here’s a link to the Earth911 website where you can plug in your zipcode and the type of items you want to recycle, and they’ll give you a listing of nearby recycling facilities.

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa sustainability

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