Terrace residents have slipped into bad recycling habits sufficient that the provincial organization responsible for residential packaging and paper recycling has told it to come up a solution.
A July audit from Recycle BC, which takes and sorts local materials, found what’s called a contamination rate of 13.5 per cent, far in excess of the three per cent maximum set by the organization and double the provincial average. It’s the fifth audit in a row to register a contamination rate increase.
A consistent failure to meet contamination targets could result in fines of $2,500 per load sent out for sorting to a maximum of $60,000 per year.
“The City of Terrace has not been fined by Recycle BC for these numbers, but instead has been tasked with writing a plan to address them,” explained city official Kate Lautens of a recycling offensive coming soon.
The city has already posted a semi-scolding message on social media telling people that even one change a week will help.
“Our recycling carts are BAGLESS. That means you should not put your recycling in bags before adding it to your cart. Loose items only, please! You are always allowed to put extra recycling in clear plastic bags next to your cart, though,” reads one portion of the message.
Lautens listed a series of materials and items which should not be put into the city’s blue recycling bins, beginning with books. They may be made of paper but glue and other binding materials prevent them from being recycled so they should be placed in the grey garbage containers or donated.
Some items made of plastic are also on the forbidden list and, like books, should be disposed of in the grey garbage bins or otherwise disposed of by donating or other means.
“Durable plastic products are things like kids’ outdoor play equipment, a laundry hamper, or clothes hangers and other things like that,” said Lautens in citing examples of what should not be placed in the blue bins.
“Recycle BC accepts plastic that once contained something else — like a plastic ice cream tub or a plastic jar filled with screws or nails or something, or plastic packaging for a toy. But it wouldn’t accept a plastic watering can, or a plastic barbie doll, or plastic shelving.”
Residents should also clean containers that can be recycled of any residue.
“We also see glass, Styrofoam/foam, soft plastics, and refundable beverage containers in the recycling carts, none of which are permitted curb-side but can be recycled through other channels—namely at Do Your Part,” Lautens added.
“Styrofoam and glass particles can contaminate an entire truckload because they are hard to separate from other items.”
Dave Lefebvre of Recycle BC added another factor involving contaminated material — worker safety.
“One of biggest concerns is hazardous materials such as propane canisters and batteries, especially lithium or lithium-ion batteries. These pose very serious risks of explosion and fire that could endanger the lives of workers and potentially burn facilities we rely upon to manage recycling,” he said.
“Batteries especially are a great concern as they can be found in so many electronics and toys. They should not be included in your recycling. Materials like plastic film and foam should be taken to the depot. These can significantly impact the recyclability of other materials which impacts our ability to achieve the best environmental outcomes. Foam can break apart and contaminate other materials, while film acts much like paper in our system and can contaminate paper bales destined for recycling markets.”
The city last toughened its recycling program in 2018 when one audit returned a contamination rate of 20 per cent. It lowered the contamination rate by screening carts before they were dumped into collection trucks, published more information about what to do and what not to do and boosted enforcement.
Similar measures are being introduced this week, including targeting repeat offenders and providing more detailed information to households found to have contaminated carts.
Offenders could even find one of the city’s bylaw enforcement knocking on their door.
“If a resident has received three contamination letters, then a City of Terrace bylaw officer will visit the residence and discuss the ongoing contamination issue. The fourth contamination notice will result in a fine,” said Lautens of a $100 penalty.