Every fall I am honored to provide tours of the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority to many of the fifth-grade students in the State College Area School District. In October, more than 450 students got a firsthand look at our operation.
One thing I noticed during these tours was the volume and quality of the questions posed to me during their visits. Our students are very inquisitive and have even stumped me a time or two. I thought I would take some time this month to share some of the most popular questions and answers.
Q: Have recycling tonnages increased or decreased over the past few years?
A: Our recycling records show a steady increase of recycling over the past 10 years. However, on a related note, county refuse tonnages have decreased over the past 10 years. They are always happy to hear that we are moving in the right direction.
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Q: How much refuse do you get at CCRRA each day?
A: We receive approximately 400 tons of refuse at our transfer station each day for processing.
Q: Where does our refuse go?
A: Most refuse picked up in Centre County first makes a pit stop at CCRRA’s transfer station, where it is crushed by large machinery. The compacted refuse is then loaded into tractor trailers and driven to the Greentree Landfill located in Kersey.
Q: Why can’t we just burn our refuse?
A: Although we process close to 400 tons of refuse a day, we would need about triple that amount to be able to operate a waste-to-energy facility. A study was conducted a few years ago to assess the possibility of such an operation and found that it is not feasible in our area.
Q: How many employees work at CCRRA?
A: CCRRA employs close to 60 people. We have employees who work in the transfer station, the recycling processing facility and the CCRRA office, as well as employees who drive curbside, commercial and hook trucks. We have a maintenance staff, an education coordinator, an enforcement officer and scale operators, just to name a few.
Q: What do you do?
A: My job is fun and ever-changing. My main responsibility is to educate the Centre County population on proper recycling practices. This can be done in a variety of ways including print and online media (including this monthly recycling column), public speaking engagements, tours of our facility, community events, radio interviews and so on. I am always looking for captivating and informative methods to educate the vast population of the county.
At the end of each tour, I have all of the students get on a scale and weigh the class. Most fifth-grade classes weigh just about a ton. I explain to them that if they were all placed in a refuse truck, the truck driver would have to pay our tipping fee of $67 per ton to drop them off as refuse. However, they would be worth approximately $1,600 if they were aluminum cans. Now that puts things in perspective.