Tori Sutton, Stratford Gazette
Stratford's recycling program is undergoing some big changes as of Monday, April 30.
That’s the date the new recycling contract – with pick-up by Canadian Waste Management and processing by Bluewater Recycling – come into effect.
The most notable difference under the new system is the preparation – or lack thereof – residents will have to do before taking their blue bin out to the curb.
“We’re moving to a single stream system so that means no more sorting of recyclable materials,” said Katie Alward, the city’s waste reduction co-ordinator.
“It’s going to be a lot easier for residents and businesses alike.”
In the past, many residents have used plastic grocery bags to separate materials within their bins.
Alward warns if they continue that practice, the items will not be picked up.
“The guys won’t be collecting that, it has to be loose,” she said.
But there’s a place for those grocery bags in the blue box ... plastic film has now been added to the list of accepted items.
All grocery and retail bags must be stuffed inside one tied bag and placed into the bin.
Empty, dry paint cans will also be accepted, as will shredded paper, which was banned in the past.
Shredded paper is the only item – other than plastic bags – that should be separated and put into a tied bag for pick-up.
Another benefit of the new contract is local businesses will now have the opportunity to participate in curbside cardboard recycling.
Each business will be permitted to recycle up to five bundles of cardboard – 30 by 90 by 90 centimetres in size – on their pick-up day.
A full listing of recyclable materials is available on the city’s website, www.city.stratford.on.ca.
Pick-up days remain the same, but the order in which drivers navigate routes may change, so Alward is stressing the importance of putting out goods to the curb early.
“The drivers are going to be changing their daily routines,” she said, suggesting all blue bins be put out by 8 a.m. “People need to put material out early and on time.”
Though many items have been added to the list of accepted recycables, a few notables have been removed: Tetra Paks, gable top containers (such as milk and juice containers), and paper coffee cups.
Despite having been collected in the city for years, it’s unlikely those items were being recycled, said Bluewater Recycling president Francis Veilleaux.
Veilleaux, who spoke generally about recycling in Ontario and not the city’s current contract specifically, said there are very few facilities in the world that have the technology to properly process multi-material packages, like the wax or plastic coated cups or Tetra Paks.
Often, collectors will bundle such materials with mixed paper, and sell it to recycling plants.
Since the coated materials will not break down using the traditional method of warm water and cleaning solutions, they are often screened out and disposed of as garbage.
“That’s how most of it ends up in the landfill,” Veilleaux explained. “You can say ‘residents, we’re accepting this material’ but in reality you’re really not, it’s just going into the garbage somewhere else.”
Even if such materials were being sold to a company with the technology to recycle them, the amount of material that can be reclaimed is small.
For example, a Tetra Pak container is usually made up of about 75 per cent paper fibres, 20 per cent plastic and five per cent aluminum.
Some paper fibres are usually lost in the extraction process – which involves a large blender-type machine that “really beats that material to death,” said Veilleaux – resulting in up to 40 per cent of the Tetra Pak going to the landfill, and only about 60 per cent being recovered.
On average, the items being removed from the stream account for about 3.76 kg of a household’s annual recyclables, said Veilleaux.
On the flip side, the items being added – plastic film, shredded paper and paint cans – make up about 47.2 kg per household, per year.
“They’re actually still getting 43.5 kg of new materials added to the blue box despite losing those other materials,” Veilleaux said. “It’s going to make a much more significant difference to their program.
“We’re looking to see an increase in the amount of materials being recycled from the City of Stratford.”
Bluewater is actively searching for new processors that can handle multi-material packaging, and Veilleaux hopes those items can be re-introduced back into the local recycling stream within the next few years.
“We’re getting closer but we’re not quite there yet,” he said.
However Bluewater does pride itself on being up front about its programs, and he noted everything that is collected is recycled.
“Everything does get recycled .... you can feel really good about what you’re doing,” Veilleaux said.
Anyone seeking more information about Bluewater and its recycling programs can visit the company’s website at www.bra.org. The site includes fact sheets and educational videos.