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Centre County does a better job recycling plastics than other places across the country

A recycling bin sits on the curb, awaiting pickup by the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority.
Emily Reddy
A recycling bin sits on the curb, awaiting pickup by the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority. Joanne Shafer, deputy director at the Authority, says their process means more plastic gets recycled in the county than elsewhere.

Recently, a number of national news stories have talked about how plastics collected for recycling are being thrown out instead. But that’s not true for plastic recycling in Centre County.

“That myth of you’re putting things in your recycling bin but some of it getting thrown away is not untrue everywhere, but it is untrue here in Centre County,” said Joanne Shafer, the Deputy Director of the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority.

Shafer said the Authority has buyers lined up who recycle every plastic they collect, which means they’re not throwing it out and they can collect more than most places.

“We only add things to our program when we know that we’re gonna have a long-term stable market," Shafer said. "So we don’t take everything. We don’t take the things that we can’t recycle, which would be dirty film or those single-use plastics or wading pools or used toys.”

What’s also different about Centre County is how the curbside program sorts out your recycling.

“You put it out in your bin curbside. Our crews come through and they hand sort it at the curb, so it comes into our facility clean. Our drop-offs do sometimes get contamination, but we clean that out,” Shafer said.

She said their cleaner product is why the Authority can find markets for more types of plastics.

For curbside, Shafer said instead of looking at the number on the bottom, the shape can help you figure out what containers can be recycled.

“Bottles, jugs, jars, and cans,” Shafer said.

The Authority also has six drop-off locations across the county for miscellaneous plastics, including tubs like for yogurt or margarine, clamshells and takeout containers.

Casey Zanowic is a WPSU radio news intern for fall 2022.
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