Major contaminates are still finding their way in recycling and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and City of Penticton are hoping to stop that.
Residents caught by a driver placing out inappropriate materials will have their recycling left at their curb. Drivers leave a sticker explaining why their materials were left and how to get more information.
David Kassian, Penticton community sustainability co-ordinator, and Cameron Baughen, RDOS solid waste management co-ordinator, have been visiting homes looking at what people are placing out. They are consistently seeing the same wrong materials being placed out.
“Soft plastics such as any bags, pouches and sacs were banned from collection in 2014,” said Kassian. “Durable plastics, like coat hangers, Tupperware, toys and tarps, are not designed to be recycled. These materials should never be placed in recycling.”
“Other major contaminates include food waste, paper towels and batteries. Everything placed in recycling is touched by hand. Paper towels and food waste can make people sick. Batteries caused a recycling truck fire in Penticton just last year. All batteries, electronics and appliances can be dropped off for recycling at local depots but should never be placed out in garbage or recycling.”
By weight, non-acceptable materials make up approximately eight per cent to 15 per cent of recycling collected.
In 2014 a province-wide program, now called RecycleBC, standardized what materials could be collected in residential recycling. The program manages the recycling of all residential printed paper and packaging across B.C. A small levy is placed on packaging and printed paper when they are sold to help pay for curbside collection and local depots. Depots allow for drop off of some materials that can’t be collected like container glass, stretchy film plastic bags and overwrap and polystyrene packaging.
“Other major contaminates include food waste, paper towels and batteries. Everything placed in recycling is touched by hand. Paper towels and food waste can make people sick. Batteries caused a recycling truck fire in Penticton just last year. All batteries, electronics and appliances can be dropped off for recycling at local depots but should never be placed out in garbage or recycling,” said Kassian.
He added that items should not be nested inside each other. Loose materials can be sorted and tied or stuffed materials don’t break apart in the recycling stream requiring that they be thrown in the garbage.
Local residents have expressed frustration that some items, especially soft plastics, used to be collected but aren’t now. Plastic bags and soft overwrap from materials like toilet paper can be brought to local depots or most grocery stores. Baughen agrees there has been a shift on what can be collected.
“Since 2008 we’ve known thousands of tonnes of mixed recycling and garbage were being shipped to China. A large percentage of the plastics being collected were inappropriately recycled, burned or landfilled. Instead of being recycled, soft plastics collected in the RDOS may have ended up as waste in communities in rural China.”
“Since then the province of B.C. has pushed to make sure that all recycling collected is recycled appropriately. Soft plastics like bags, sacs and wrappers, get caught in paper, metal and other plastic items adding to contamination. Soft plastics also wrap around sorting equipment. China has erected a ‘green fence’ which bans shipments of garbage or mixed recyclables from North America. Local governments are now tasked to make sure people only put out what can be collected.”
“Changing habits can be hard. But the recycling system now allows for all clean acceptable materials to be properly recycled. This makes for a way better system.”
Bags made of plastic, plastic overwrap and other soft plastics can wrap around sorting machinery. Keeping these materials separate allows for these items to be recycled through local depots and grocery stores.
Durable plastics are those plastic items that are designed to be used more than once. Durable plastics like kitchen utensils, coat hangers, toys, tarps and pool floaties often contain more than one type of plastic or have some other factor that restricts recycling. They are not part of the RecycleBC program and not part of the collection or depot programs. Durable plastics often have a recycling symbol which can confuse residents. The recycling symbol on durable plastic products is not used to indicate whether it is recyclable but is used by plastic manufactures to solely indicate the material is made of plastic.