Bloomsburg University Faculty Members Conduct State-Wide Recycling Survey

 

For Immediate Release
Date: April 20, 2021
Contact: Tom McGuire, Director of Communications/Media Relations

 

Bloomsburg University Faculty Members Conduct State-Wide Recycling Survey

 

BLOOMSBURG—Community recycling programs have never been more important. Recycling helps to preserve environmental quality, saves landfill space, preserves resources, conserves energy, reduces air pollution, and saves water. And according to the EPA, strong community recycling programs can contribute to a healthy, united community.

That’s where the work of Jennifer Haney from Bloomsburg University’s Department of Environmental, Geographical and Geological Sciences (EGGS) comes into play. Last summer Haney, the project director, and John Bodenman, her EGGS faculty colleague and co-author on the report, conducted a first of its kind in Pennsylvania study on recycling programs. The rural recycling study was funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. The survey was sent to all counties and municipalities in the state of Pennsylvania.  A total of 35 of 67 counties and 702 of 2,552 municipalities responded to the survey. Wayne, Perry, Fayette, and Centre Counties as well as the Town of Bloomsburg and Scott Township, were also selected and featured in the Case Studies of Successful Recycling Programs Operating in Rural Areas.

Haney explained the reason for conducting the study.

“Recycling programs across the United States are struggling to adjust to rapidly changing market conditions for recyclable materials,” Haney wrote in the proposal. “Rural county recycling programs, in particular, are increasingly vulnerable to these changes. This project was designed to test a number of hypotheses concerning economic and environmental issues impacting recycling programs in rural Pennsylvania.”

“For the case studies, the selected counties were deemed to have successful recycling programs because they are still in operation despite the multitude of challenges associated with their rural locations,” Haney said. “We wanted to include a variety of recycling collection programs in the detailed case studies to demonstrate that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to recycling in Pennsylvania and emphasize the importance of the geographic context. As a result, we used the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regions to highlight the geographic considerations and diversity in recycling collection programs and services offered to residents throughout the state.”

Haney and Bodenman contacted the county recycling coordinators in the selected counties (as well as their municipalities) for the case studies and provided each with a list of questions. Questions expanded on information collected in the web-based survey. They addressed the following: population served with recycling collection services, staff employed at the recycling facility, major challenges and opportunities encountered in the past 10 years and those anticipated over the next five years, key areas for improving policies governing waste in recycling in the state, and educational outreach and information on their recycling collection programs.

Charlie Fritz, director of governmental service and recycling coordinator for the Town of Bloomsburg, said the study was important.

“This research project was very timely, as many rural nonmandated-to-recycle communities are opting out of providing recycling services to their residents,” said Fritz. “The Bloomsburg Recycling Center has seen a large influx in people from all over the area who desire to recycle and no longer have that option in their community.”

“With her research, Dr. Haney was able to utilize 10 years of data provided by each municipality and county in Pennsylvania. A survey allowed recycling coordinators in each community to speak about the trials or celebrate the successes of recycling in their community. The overall results found common problems and presented some state-wide recommendations to continue assisting recycling at the local level.  Each community operates a unique program, but this research was able to bring those individual perspectives together for one common goal,  to keep recycling available to all residents of the state.”

Fayette County Commissioner Scott Dunn said it was an honor to be recognized by Bloomsburg University, as Fayette County has “put a lot of time and thought” into designing its recycling program.

“We took many trips to other counties to see how they run their recycling programs, and we’ve had many discussions with the DEP along the way,” Dunn said. “We ended up using a hybrid approach, which includes our drop-off bins at various locations, as well as a centralized convenience center, which will more readily accommodate hard-to-recycle items.” 

 

So what did the data collected reveal? 

“The results of the county and municipality web-based surveys revealed some interesting trends related to the environmental and economic effects of recycling in the state of Pennsylvania,” said Haney.

The top five trends revealed are:

Local recycling programs are impacted by global markets and constraints;

contamination of recyclable materials has decreased the value of materials collected;

recycling programs do increasingly rely upon funding from the State;

recycling provides environmental and economic benefits to Pennsylvania;

declining recycling program revenues and rising recycling program costs is causing a hardship for the sustainability of recycling programs in Pennsylvania.

Haney and Bodenman will use the collected data to prepare and submit two manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals — one in geography and one in waste management. They will also present the study’s results at the annual Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania Meeting in July and future meetings of the American Association of Geographers. 

Haney also recognized Fritz for his invaluable role in the project. “From the initial conception of the project to survey design and data collection to providing feedback on all aspects of the written report, Fritz helped us tell the story of recycling in Pennsylvania, and for that, we couldn’t be more grateful.”

“The sustainability of recycling programs depends on all of us,” Haney said. “Take the time, effort, and energy to carefully and correctly separate your recyclables — help to reduce contamination and give more value to your recyclable materials!”

 

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Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education. We believe opportunity belongs to those who are ready to work for it and unafraid to do something great with it. But it's not just for us. As a Husky, every step you take pulls the whole pack forward. Serving approximately 8,200 students, BU offers comprehensive programs of study in five distinct colleges: College of Education, Zeigler College of Business, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Technology, and Honors College.