By Chad Ingram
Published June 29 2017
Earlier this month some Minden Hills residents were miffed after they were told that materials they’d previously put into recycling bins at the township’s landfills now belonged on the chipping pile at the Scotch Line landfill to be made into cover for the site.
These materials included such items as plastic planters and flower trays.
The township’s environmental and property operations manager told the paper that items such as plastic planters packing Styrofoam plastic lawn chairs storage containers and vinyl siding had never been acceptable as recyclable since either those recycling streams are not available to township or are too costly for most small municipalities to undertake.
The paper inquired with the county’s other three lower-tier municipalities about recycling practices when it comes to plastic planters flower trays packing Styrofoam plastic lawn furniture plastic storage containers and vinyl siding.
It turns out that in most cases most of these items are not recycled.
“There are some challenges with recycling the materials you have mentioned and it is unfortunate that none of those materials can be recycled in our current recycling streams” Melissa Murray environmental co-ordinator for the Township of Algonquin Highlands wrote in an email.
“There are many materials used for packaging and products that are currently sold in the marketplace today and many of them have the ability to be recycled. Unfortunately at this time Algonquin Highlands does not have the facilities to recycle everything that could be recycled. Some materials require very specialized systems to recycle (for example Styrofoam packaging materials) and therefore would require shipping long distances. Some are very challenging to sort and end up contaminating other similar plastics (e.g. flower trays pots etc.). Contamination increases the cost to recycle materials and makes the end product less useful. Some materials take up such large volumes that the cost to ship them supercedes any benefit any benefit achieved by recycling (e.g. lawn furniture). Other materials are just not compatible with existing sorting processes (e.g. vinyl siding). As a municipality we must weight the costs (both financial and ecological) versus the benefits. Sometimes recycling is just not the best option. We often see that larger centres are able to recycle and process a wider variety of materials. Economics of scale even impact recycling.”
Murray indicated that the Waste-Free Ontario Act may improve the situation in the future as the legislation passed in Queen’s Park last year is designed to make companies 100 per cent responsible for the materials they put out in to the market. Being phased in the legislation includes the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and Waste Diversion Transition Act. A circular economy means making companies “responsible for the end-of-life management of their products and packaging” according to a release from the province.
The story is the same in Highlands East and the Municipality of Dysart et al where the above mentioned materials with the exception of plastic planters and flower trays clearly marked with recyclable logos and in some cases small plastic storage containers with recyclable logos wind up in municipal landfills.