Widener Issues White Paper: Next Generation Recycling & Waste Reduction

A Widener University law professor made public a new research report intended to strengthen recycling and waste reduction in Pennsylvania. The report includes recommendations for
ways an expansion of the practice can help create jobs and spur the Commonwealth’s economy – ideas that provide a platform for a serious conversation about the future of Pennsylvania’s
recycling program.

The report, “Next Generation Recycling and Waste Reduction:  Building on the Success of Pennsylvania’s 1988 Legislation” is the work of Distinguished Professor John C. Dernbach director of the school’s Environmental Law Center, and five students who took his spring 2010 Harrisburg-campus seminar on climate change law.

Dernbach and his students did a comprehensive study of the Commonwealth’s recycling law in observance of its 20th anniversary. The result is a 46-page document that is part report card, part blueprint for the future of Pennsylvania recycling. It contains an ambitious set of recommendations to expand recycling and waste reduction in ways that would benefit Pennsylvania environmentally and economically.

Their findings indicate that Pennsylvania’s recycling program is “rudderless and drifting.” It is clear from the report that the amount of materials recycled under the law is much greater
now than in 1988, when the legislation was first signed. However, in the last decade, the Commonwealth has not reported its recycling data in a way that Dernbach, his students, or the general public can draw conclusions on whether recycling has increased or decreased. The report goes on to state that Pennsylvania’s claim to national leadership “is fading as other states
continue to improve and strengthen their programs.”

The report has been delivered to key lawmakers, including Gov. Tom Corbett, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer and members of House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy committees. Corbett served as general counsel to Waste Management Inc. in the 1990s.

The students in Dernbach’s seminar were in elementary school when the mandatory provisions of Pennsylvania’s recycling law took effect. Recycling has been a way of life for them. The
students each researched a different facet of the law, its impact and ways Pennsylvania could improve or grow. Dernbach supervised the research and molded their findings into the report
he spent the fall 2010 semester writing and the first part of this year polishing.

“Recycling creates jobs and economic development and it does more of that than landfills do,” Dernbach said. “Widener’s Environmental Law Center would be happy to participate in a
conversation with Commonwealth  officials and others about what we should do next to improve recycling and waste reduction.”

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