Recycling: What are we going to do with it?

Photo: Sharon Gardiner

When talking to Stanley (Sam) Dombroskie recently at the Bark Lake landfill about eventually having more recycling depot bins for different products, he asked, “What are we going to do with it?” It’s a really good point. Even though our approach and efforts to recycling are good, it seems impossible to keep up.

Part of the answer could be Bill 151. Otherwise known as the Waste-Free Ontario Act, this new legislation sets out a Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario and will put Ontario in a leadership role on waste reduction. Elements of the strategy aim to create a circular economy, which will keep the resources used on that product within the economy by using it again to create future value. The Ministry of Environment & Climate Change is putting pressure on manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and e-tailers to improve the design of their materials, products and business practices to keep the value of the resources used and maintained for as long as possible.

General Manager, Sue McCrae of Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre ( states,

“As part of the Act, municipalities will no longer be responsible to collect and pay for the recycling of packaging (The Blue Box Program). The costs to manage packaging will be borne by the product manufacturers, which are the ones that actually choose which packaging they market their products in. Likewise as these producers take on the full management costs, they will also assume responsibility for the collection and processing system which is now managed by Municipal or Regional Governments.”

We hope to see many necessary changes as a result of this new legislation. The Circular Economy Act should reduce waste sent to landfill by encouraging reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery of packaging materials. Targets for recovery (recycling) of valuable resources used in packaging for the goods sold into the marketplace in Ontario will be set and monitored by the newly formed Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority who are now tasked with policing producers of packaging to ensure they meet recycling targets set by the Ministry.

In the Madawaska Valley, our recycling lately has been fairly good says McCrae. The OVWRC randomly audits our bins that come in for recycling. They sort representative samples of the container material received for recycling, weigh it and hand sort through it to determine the percentage contamination and identify which materials have been included in error. This establishes the residue rate (percentage). The aim is to have less than 10 percent says McCrae.

Madawaska Valley has been very good on the last two audits (7.9 percent in Jan. 2018, 4.6 percent in Oct. 2017). However, we were high during the previous two audits (12.6 percent in April 2017, 13.8 percent in Feb. 2017).

On how we can improve on our residue rate, McCrae advises us to

“Keep an eye on the types of plastic we include for recycling. For example, film plastics (plastic bags of all kinds) and Styrofoam are no longer acceptable in our program as there are no longer stable markets to ensure these materials can be recycled. Likewise wrappers for hot dogs, meat, chip bags, candy wrappers, non-packaging plastics such as laundry baskets, toys and many more items are not recyclable and should be included in your garbage waste.  If there is any confusion as to what is recyclable residents should check the Township & OVWRC websites before including items in with their recycling. Remember recyclables are hand sorted and when non-recyclable items are included in error it drives up the program costs which at this time are paid for through your tax dollars.”

Individually we’re making necessary changes to reduce our footprint by participating in our local recycling programs. The new Waste-Free Ontario legislation should drive an increase in waste diversion and encourage new recycling end markets. Transferring the costs for recycling away from the taxpayer and onto the producers ought to provide the financial incentive the producers need to make better environmental decisions on how to package their products.

The Waste-Free Ontario Act, Bill 151, sets out a plan to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, recycling, green procurement, disposal bans for landfill, increased organics diversion and so much more. It’s going to help us with some answers to Sam’s question, what are we going to do with it.

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