TRR photo by David Hulse.
Wayne County Commissioners Joe Adams (not pictured) Brian Smith, left, and Wendell Kay listen to Leonard Schwartz’ proposals about food and drink alternatives. Construction in commissioners meeting room forced their use of a more intimate conference room for the February 21 meeting.

Paper versus plastic – a new movement in Wayne

HONESDALE, PA — Leonard Schwartz says he’s tired of looking at “a lot of junk alongside Wayne County’s roads,” and wants to become an agent of change.

As the principal of the Wayne Hospitality Group and the owner of four restaurants and two hotels in Honesdale, Schwartz is in the prime position for change. So far, he has discontinued use of all disposable plastic food and beverage service items for both on and off premises use.

His changes include, but are not limed to, plastic straws, stirrers, glasses and cups, utensils, take-out containers and bags used for takeout food and beverages. “This action and the following proposals have been taken to protect the environment of our beautiful Wayne County, PA,” his statement said.

“I understand that legislation is impossible, but I’d like to start a movement,” he told the county commissioners on February 21.

The terminology can be confusing. Styrofoam doesn’t degrade. Other products marketed as recyclable plastics are not, and recyclable does not equate to bio-degradable, he said.

Schwartz proposed the use of polyethylene film bags that readily decompose in sunlight and a series of paper products made from a fibrous waste product of sugarcane, known as bagasse. The containers are available from commercial suppliers (and at larger grocery stores) at slightly higher prices than standard plastics, “but the cost differential is negligible for businesses,” he said.

The difference in bagasse utensils is readily noticeable, comparing smooth-edged bagasse utensils to standard pressed and often roughedged plastic utensils. These too are biodegradable and non-toxic, Schwartz said.

Schwartz is also proposing a 10- cent refundable deposit for non-alcoholic beverage containers, which he noted is “common elsewhere and has a significant positive environmental impact.”

Commissioner Brian Smith noted that many northern Wayne residents already take advantage of the container deposit refunding in nearby New York State.

“They’re not doing it in Lakeville,” Schwartz replied.

In other business, the commissioners opened bids for the grant-funded construction of the Newfoundland Food Pantry. Grimm Construction of Waymart provided the apparent low bids for the base building construction ($164,253) and alternate flooring ($10,684) while Reinfurt Excavating of Honesdale was the apparent low excavation bid ($49,500) and an alternate for additional parking ($20,400).

The commissioners also approved a letter of support for the Lacawac Sanctuary’s PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) grant funding for an environmental center.


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