Waste Wise | Curbside Recycling – Pass or Fail?

By Tera Grady –

If you live in a community that receives curbside recycling collection, you likely participate in the program. The question is, though: if someone inspected your recycling tote this week, would it receive a passing grade?

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Considering the District of 100 Mile House, the Cariboo Regional District, and the City of Williams Lake are nowhere close to achieving the acceptable contamination levels set by Recycle BC, there is a pretty good chance you might have some contamination in your recycling bin.

For example, the 108 Mile Ranch community had nearly 20 per cent contamination by weight in 2016. Currently, acceptable levels are less than 3 per cent by weight.

To identify the common problems causing the excessive contamination levels, the CRD audited curbside recycling totes in the 108 Mile Ranch last spring. The CRD inspected recycling totes at the curb and tagged them with notes listing the contaminating items.

Here are some of the common contamination problems found during the audit in the 108 Mile Ranch. Are any of these offenders in your recycling tote this week?

1. Plastic film and plastic bags
Examples: Plastic film (soft plastics/plastic wrap) from frozen pizzas, flats of pop, bottled water, cans of soup or packages of paper towels, diapers, etc. All types of plastic bags ranging from grocery, water softener, fresh fruit, bread bags, frozen vegetables, and zipper lock bags.

Most people think plastic bags are recyclable at the curb, but this is not the case. Many types of plastic bags and film are recyclable, but only at a recycling depot, not curbside. You may think, “That is ridiculous!” and you may be correct, but those are the rules we must follow. Plastic bags or film cannot go in curbside collection because they wreak havoc in the sorting facilities. They wrap around the gears and rollers in the conveyor belt system; they blow around, acting like paper and contaminate the paper stream; and, they entangle many other recyclables preventing them from being separated and recycled.

2. Reusable items and recyclable “products”
Examples: Clothing and footwear; wood; scrap metal; toys; batteries; kitchen utensils and cookware; children’s car seats; etc.

Recycle BC is a non-profit organization responsible for residential packaging and printed paper recycling throughout BC. The program is funded by the producers of residential packaging and printed paper, including businesses like Save On Foods, Safeway, Walmart, Canadian Tire, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Starbucks, to name a few. These producers are only responsible to cover the cost of the residential packaging and printed paper they produceand therefore the Recycle BC program does not accept products. Please take other recyclables and reusable items to the appropriate drop off spots and second-hand stores. If you don’t know where to take an item call the Recycling Hotline of BC at 1-800-667-4321 or check online at rcbc.ca.

3. Polystyrene foam (aka Styrofoam)
Examples: Foam meat trays, foam egg cartons, and packaging foam used to protect breakables and electronics.

Items like this are recyclable at a depot but do not belong in curbside collection. The foam breaks apart and clings to other recyclable items, which degrades them and makes them harder to market.

4. “Unsortable” items
When recyclables are stuffed inside of each other, they become impossible to separate at the sorting facility. If you jam a tin can inside a plastic container and then stuff them into a cardboard box, none of the items can be separated at the sorting facility, especially after they have been compacted in the collection truck, and then bailed at a processing facility. Please place your recyclables loose in the curbside totes.

5. Glass
Because it is heavy, glass accounts for a lot of the contamination by weight. Glass can be recycled at a depot, but never in your curbside totes. Glass breaks apart and the shards imbed in the other types of recyclables, which degrades their quality and, therefore, their value. Glass is also dangerous for workers at the processing and sorting facilities.

The good news is, after a month of auditing and educating, the CRD re-checked totes in 108 Mile and found the frequency of contaminated totes dropped by 30 per cent.

Take a moment to audit your own curbside recycling tote to see if it passes inspection. Awareness and small changes can make a big difference. If you are interested to see the detailed recycling guide customized for 108 Mile, email talktrash@cariboord.cato request one.
Join the Cariboo Regional District in 2017 by resolving to become waste wise and make a difference.

Learn more by following us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/caribooregion, visiting us online at www.cariboord.bc.ca, or looking for our waste wise articles in your local paper. For more information on the Waste Wise Program, call (250) 398-7929. You can also find more details on Waste Wise activities and events at www.ccconserv.org.

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