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Chester County Kicks Off Zero Waste Plan

Chester County Kicks Off Zero Waste Plan with Panel Hosted by Chester County Economic Development Council 

The Chester County Solid Waste Authority launched its Zero Waste Plan on Wednesday with a panel hosted by the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) covering how residents, businesses and municipalities can incorporate zero waste practices.

Held in partnership with CCEDC’s Smart Energy Initiative of Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEI), the panel opened with Chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners Marian Moskowitz commenting, “We live in a county characterized by abundance. In Chester County we have an award-winning landfill and a 65% recycling rate. This year we have developed our first Zero Waste Plan, working toward a circular economy and long-term commitment.” 

Panelist Patti Lynn is Recycling Resources Manager for the Chester County Solid Waste Authority, which manages the county’s larger landfill, Lanchester Landfill. The Lanchester Landfill has more than 15 years of permitted capacity and is exploring other disposal, reuse and recycling technologies it can use to reduce waste for the 450,000 people it serves in 49 municipalities in northern Chester County and Caernarvon Township, Lancaster County.

Lynn notes that the term “zero waste” doesn’t necessarily mean “zero.” Instead, it encompasses efforts to reduce waste and divert it from landfills and incinerators. The top priority for zero waste in Chester County is minimizing the amount of waste produced at the source.

With that in mind, goals for 2021 in the county’s Zero Waste Plan include reducing waste at the source through an information campaign targeted to consumers and municipalities, as well as establishing a permanent household hazardous waste collection facility. Lynn emphasized that Zero Waste initiatives are long term, with goals extending into 2022 and 2023 including outreach on zero waste strategies to businesses, business associations, chambers of commerce and institutions.

“People have a sense of being able to control garbage over the last 30 years through recycling mandates. Thirty years ago, nobody wanted to do it, but it has evolved into a habit,” Lynn said. “But recycling can only take us so far. It’s time to rethink solid waste from beginning to end.”

At West Chester University, sustainability efforts are well underway, according to panelist Bradley Flamm, Director of West Chester University’s Office of Sustainability.  He described a variety of campus zero waste initiatives, many initiated by students in collaboration with faculty and staff on the university’s Sustainability Council.

“Many people understand the importance of diverting materials that leave our campus for reuse, repurposing or recycling rather than going to a landfill or incinerator,” said Flamm. “But such diversion rates are rather complicated and don’t fully capture the fact that we strive to be more efficient in the materials we bring on campus and use in the first place.” 

Flamm says WCU prioritizes working with a hauling company that can offer a comprehensive recycling education program; effective collection, sorting, bundling and marketing of recyclable materials; and waste disposal in a landfill with effective environmental management practices that capture landfill gases for productive uses, such as heating or electricity generation. 

Discussing effective sustainability efforts for businesses, Kimberton Whole Foods’ Pat Brett, who founded the company with her husband Terry, said they created a Climate Committee with volunteer team members from each of Kimberton Whole Foods’ stores. The six stores began by focusing on packaging and food waste at food service areas. Brett notes that employees are a key to success, with ongoing education efforts to ensure effective recycling practices. Kimberton Whole Foods continues a multitude of waste reduction programs including partnering with farmers to provide food waste for animal feed. 

The Zero Waste panel was moderated by Skelly Holmbeck, a board member of the Chester County Solid Waste Authority.