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'Clearing the way'

Date May 5, 2011 Author Jason Smith Categories RCO in the News

City reduces recycling confusion by accepting more types of plastics in blue boxes

Council's decision Tuesday night to make the city's blue box more inclusive will make recycling less confusing for residents, the city's supervisor of solid waste says.

The city will now accept almost all types of plastics, including those labelled with Nos. 1, 3, 6 and 7. It will also accept unnumbered plastics, such as those used in packaging items such as toothbrushes or batteries. Heather Roberts, supervisor of solid waste disposal for the city, said the city's recycling program has been a source of confusion.

"People want to do the right thing," she said. "When you used to take that (packaging) off your toothbrush, you thought you were doing the right thing by putting that piece of plastic in (the blue box). It feels good to do it and people make such an effort.

"Unfortunately, sometimes it wasn't the right thing to do, but now it's going to be the right thing to do."

Similarly, among the family of plastic products that the city will now recycle are what are commonly referred to as "clamshell" food containers, the hinged packages that often contain food items such as berries or greens.

"It's definitely going to make the program simpler for residents to use and a lot easier," Roberts said, "because we are always questioned with, 'Why can't I put my berry containers in my blue box, why can't I put my salad containers in, or plastic egg cartons?'"

According to Ontario's Waste Diversion Act, it's the municipality that decides which materials it will recycle.

"What a municipality collects is based on what they can find an end market for and sell on," explained Lucy Robinson, executive assistant of the Recycling Council of Ontario. Kingston is among its members.

Roughly three years ago, the city discontinued collecting some plastics because companies that bought plastics didn't want them anymore.

"What we were hearing from the market was, 'We no longer want these thermoforms, they are contaminating the product. Our customers don't want it, so we don't want it,' " Roberts said.

"That's when we pulled back and said that we don't want any more thermoforms."

That has since changed, she said.

"Since markets have opened in Ontario and they're stable, that's sort of what pushed our decision to expand the program now," Roberts said.

How Kingston's recycling program compares to those of other municipalities in the province is difficult to assess, Robinson said, like comparing apples and oranges.

Roberts said it all depends on the end market.

"For example, Kingston is way ahead on collecting polystyrene," she said. "A lot of municipalities don't collect Styrofoam, but we do."

It's estimated that the new rules regarding what's blue box worthy will annually divert around 500 tonnes away from landfills.

To read the entire article, please visit the Kingston Whig-Standard.



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