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Recycling in this City

January 25, 2013

The city just introduced a new garbage and recycling system.  It’s the new topic of conversation.  Everybody has a garbage story.  My cousin tells one about an operator that carefully emptied a plastic cart into the truck, and immediately crushed the cart when it fell under the wheels.  We now have two colours of carts.  The black ones are for garbage, replacing garbage cans.  The blue ones are for recycling, replacing blue boxes.  These are not a gift from the city; there’s a charge on our water bills to pay for them.

Also new is a seasonal pickup of compost materials.  This is an initiative for the city, one that I find commendable.  It replaces the fall drop-off sites for leaves where people would deliver plastic bags full of leaves.  These were only used at the landfill site, apparently because the city had no way to separate the plastic from the compostable material.  For the new pickup, we can only put out paper bags of yard waste or garbage cans that can be emptied directly into the truck.  Without the plastic bags, the yard waste can now be made into compost that can be sold or given to the public.

The city will also pick up large appliances, such as refrigerators, for a fee.  This is to cover the safe removal of hazardous substances like freon.  I don’t know if any other parts of these appliances, such as the steel cabinets, are recycled.  I suspect that all those parts go into the landfill.

The types of waste that we can put into the new blue carts is essentially the same as for blue boxes.  Any paper or cardboard is acceptable, although I heard recently that printed wrapping paper must be excluded.  Glass containers such as jars and bottles are acceptable.  However, these are crushed and placed only in the landfill, as there is no market for used glass.  Plastic containers, steel cans, and aluminum cans are all acceptable.  All of these are recycled into other products.

The province has recently announced some initiatives to encourage recycling.  One is an environmental levy on certain products.  I recall seeing this on my bill for an oil change or for tires.  Now there are more of these.  I recently bought a wired telephone for $9.95 and discovered a $3.00 environmental levy added to my bill.  That’s 1/3 of the cost!  It is only $3.00 of course.  The province has also set up recycling depots for specific products, typically with dealers for those products.  I assume they are paid from the environmental levy for this service.

Economics and public pressure seem to determine what the city does for recycling.  Land here is cheap and plentiful, making landfill the low-cost option.  The public want to see more recycling as a way of being environmentally responsible, but they also want to keep their taxes down.  This is a obvious conflict, since the economics of recycling are generally not good.  There is a cost associated with being environmentally responsible.  The city appears to want to exclude from the landfill any products that are hazardous to public health as well as any products that are economical to recycle.

I’d like to recycle more than I can now.  I’ve accumulated small amounts of metal.  Scrap dealers will pay for this.  However, I had a bad experience with steel.  I still have aluminum and zinc left.  I’d be happy to give the metals away.  Somebody I could call and who would come around with a truck would be ideal.  I also have fluorescent lamps, both the tubes and the new compact styles.  There are a few new recycling depots for these, mostly at home lighting dealers, but I haven’t tried them yet.  The situation is much better for electronics.  I’ve disposed of many computers and monitors as well as parts and smaller electronic items.  There are many locations, some of them quite convenient for me.

Small appliances are a different story.  I have a broken toaster, hair dryer, and can opener, for example.  There are no electronics, probably no hazardous substances, in these things.  There’s also no place to recycle them.  My only choice is to put them in the garbage.  They wind up in the landfill.  Used oil-based paint and yard chemicals can’t be recycled but at least they can be disposed of safely.  There’s one depot not too far from me where I can leave these things.  Some paint dealers will also take unused cans of paint for re-use or recycling.  Latex paint seems not to be a hazard.  I can put cans of dried-up latex paint directly into my garbage.  The previous owner of my house left me a stash of old paint in the garden shed.  I’m going haul this out and dispose of it in the spring.

I’m generally pleased with our new procedure for garbage and recycling, although I would like to see more recycling.  I am concerned that some of the city’s recycling is in name only, like the glass that goes only into the landfill.  I’m also concerned that some waste products, like paper and cardboard, are recycled into only low-grade products, like shingles and insulation.  Of course, I’d like something better for metals.  These do seem to be economical to recycle.  I’m particularly pleased with the city’s new program for making yard waste into compost.

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