Residents urged to keep recycling clean
Okotoks: Plastic film should be bundled together, not thrown loose into cart
Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018 11:28 am
Okotoks’ recycling program hasn’t seen much impact after China closed its doors to some recyclable materials, but Town officials are asking residents to keep any potential contaminates out of their blue bins.
As of October, China has banned certain recyclable materials, primarily paper, due to contaminated product being shipped from some recycling companies.
Waste Services Manager Paul Lyons said this has not been the case with Okotoks’ recycling collection contractor. However, he said it has become a well-known fact in the sector that some suppliers were sending garbage mixed in with their recycled product. China finally had enough, he said.
He believes that if recyclable paper products are kept uncontaminated, the Chinese market could open back up. China already made some accommodations, raising the acceptable level of contamination from 0.03 per cent to one per cent since October, he said.
“I don’t see China rejecting all our fibre,” said Lyons. “They need our fibre, but I think they have a right to determine what the quality of that fibre is. Every end user is allowed to evaluate the product they’re getting and make a decision if the product is of the quality they require or not.”
The main contaminates of recycled paper are plastic film and glass, he said.
According to Lyons, when glass is compacted in the cart or collection truck, it shatters and shards of glass can get into paper products, he said.
As well, when plastic film (including items like plastic bags and wrapping) is loose in the blue recycling cart with paper, it can contaminate the fibre, he said. This is something the Town’s waste services department has been working to educate residents on since the curbside recycling program came into place.
“It’s an ongoing battle for us as we continue to say to bundle plastic bags into one and throw them into the cart, and that isn’t happening,” said Lyons. “We’re still seeing it loose, and by being loose it gets all over the paper and contaminates the paper.”
Both issues are among the largest problems the Town’s recycling program is facing, said Lyons. He said it’s an important issue for residents to keep an eye out for. If the quality of goods from recycling suppliers increases, the Chinese market may pick up and accept paper materials, he said.
For now, recycling companies are finding alternate markets in which to sell their products, and contractors have assured Lyons there will be no change in their ability to process paper products from Okotoks through 2018, said Lyons. However, he said to continue to make paper products marketable some changes may be necessary.
“Potentially, we could look at how we’re managing plastic film and glass,” said Lyons. “I think those are the two that Okotoks will focus on in the next six to eight months.”
The Town is working with its contractors to find best practices and ensure commodities being sent out are high quality. A possibility may include looking for new markets and collection methods for problem materials like plastic film, he said.
Lyons said it wouldn’t be a bad idea to diversify the recycling market anyway. There are some Asian countries willing to take paper from North America, including India, but the price point would be lower than China offered in the past, he said.
For now, he said the most important thing is for residents to follow recycling guidelines, specifically to bundle plastic bags and place them in the cart together rather than loose. It’s easier to sort at the processing facility and reduces the level of contamination, said Lyons.