Karla Olson, a member of the city’s environmental advisory committee, spearheaded a recent dumpster dive to see how residents are doing on the recycling front. The city has found there’s definitely some room for improvement, and they’re providing ideas for residents. Photograph By Jennifer Gauthier
While recycling has become second nature to many people, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it right. And doing it wrong can mean those recyclables end up in the very place you’re trying to avoid – the garbage.
Kristian Davis, the city’s supervisor of solid waste and recycling, said many people take the time to set recyclables aside but then they take them to the recycling bins in plastic bags and deposit everything, bags and all, into the recycling.
“There are quality control staff at each one of the sorting facilities and they pick out things like plastic bags,” he said. “Items grouped in a plastic bag will be picked off the line and treated as garbage. They are not going to rip things open.”
So, instead of being sent to end-use markets where those products can be recycled, they end up in the trash.
Karla Olson, a member of the city’s environmental advisory committee, is so passionate about recycling that she set up a special recycling area in her apartment building’s laundry room where tenants can recycle items that aren’t accepted in blue bins. Although items like Styrofoam, batteries, glass, clean plastic bags and lightbulbs can’t go into the recycling bins, they can be taken to the city’s recycling depot.
“I have been trying to do recycling here with the whole building. What that has done in the past is it has reduced our dumpster costs. There is a financial benefit,” she said. “That is something that can be reported, which is appealing for the building owners. If they actually get the building managers to do this job, they can reduce their costs.”
Olson’s efforts, however, have been thwarted by tenants who continue to throw recyclables in the garbage or put recyclables into the wrong containers.
Earlier this year, Olson and Davis met to check out some garbage and recycling bins in the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood to see how well tenants are doing with their recycling. Without digging too far they found plastic food containers, newspapers, Styrofoam, juice boxes, papers and a metal chair – and a live Christmas tree hacked into three pieces and placed in plastic bags – all of which should have been recycled but were tossed in the trash or deposited in plastic bags into recycling bins.
“From the city’s perspective, it’s a work in progress,” Davis said of recycling. “The biggest issues that we have been facing lately obviously are the plastic film and bags, Styrofoam and glass. They are probably the top three that we are going to be campaigning towards.”
Olson believes the city is doing a good job on the recycling front, but wants building owners and managers to take more of a hands-on approach to addressing recycling opportunities in their businesses. She thinks it’s a “wasted opportunity” for apartment buildings not to insist tenants recycle properly as it can save them money on garbage collection costs.
Olson believes the city should send out recycling information to tenants with their electrical bills and develop a database containing contact information for apartment building owners and managers so the city can send them recycling information directly. In some cases, Olson believes the city may need to be more punitive and issue fines.
“With some people, cooperation is not the way they learn,” she said. “Some people need to learn the hard way.”
The City of New Westminster has pamphlets it can provide to help people recycle properly, as well as labels for recycling bins to make it clearer what can go in those containers.
“For us it has been about education,” Davis said. “What we have done recently in the past couple of years is update the bylaw so we can start charging.”
Where should it go? Here’s how to properly get rid of your rubbish
* Curbside blue-bin collection accepts recyclables including: newspapers; mixed paper products; milk jugs; plastic bottles and containers; disposable coffee cups (separate the cup and the lid); and tetra packs.
* The city’s recycling depot (at Sixth Avenue and McBride Boulevard) accepts items including; soft plastics and film; used motor oil and filters; aluminium and tin cans; glass bottles and jars; clean Styrofoam packaging; household paint; yard waste; light bulbs and fluorescents; household batteries; propane tanks; metal items (scrap and appliances); car batteries; household aerosols containers; and plastic, metal and paper containers.
* Yard and food scraps bins accept: meat and bones; food scraps; yard trimmings; food-soiled pizza boxes; coffee grounds and filters and tea bags; newspapers used to wrap scraps; food-soiled paper, paper plates, napkins; and branches cut down to fit in the cart.
* Garbage collection accepts: diapers; textiles; non-recyclable packaging; broken glassware; candy wrappers and fast food packaging; used hygiene products; and oils, fats and waxed paper. (Note: Blue bins outside Lord Kelvin and Lord Tweedsmuir elementary schools or Glenbrook and Queensborough middle schools accept textiles.)
* Take refundable beverage containers, like pop and liquor bottles and cans, to Encorp Recycling programs, rather than putting them in recycling bins.
* TVs and electronics can be recycled at the rear entrance to the Salvation Army, 774 Columbia St.
* If you have a large item needing disposal, the city may be able to provide a special pickup for a fee. Call 604-526-4691 for more information.