Re­cy­cling pro­gram needs gov­ern­ment ac­tion

The Drumheller Mail - - SPORTS - Allie Ruck­man The Drumheller Mail sub­mit­ted

Try­ing to keep our car­bon foot­print min­i­mal has not been an easy task for Tammi Ny­gaard, Op­er­a­tions Man­ager of the Drumheller and Dis­trict Waste Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

The op­er­a­tion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing is­sues with plas­tic re­cy­cling. Plas­tics are sorted into dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. Cat­e­gories 1 through 7 are plas­tics such as fruit con­tain­ers or mar­garine tubs. The num­ber 2 cat­e­gory of plas­tics are sorted sep­a­rately and are prod­ucts such as milk jugs and hard plas­tics.

There is a mar­ket for num­ber 2 plas­tics, as it is the high­est qual­ity of plas­tic. The is­sue be­gins with the 1 through 7 plas­tics. There is no mar­ket for those plas­tics in western Canada.

Drumheller and Dis­trict Solid Waste Man­age­ment has been ship­ping their plas­tic to the United States to be re­cy­cled, but at an ex­ces­sive cost.

“It costs us 10 dol­lars a met­ric tonne to get rid of our plas­tics. It takes a lot to make a tonne be­cause plas­tic is very light. There is no sub­stance to it. It is not like card­board that has some weight to it. We are hav­ing a re­ally hard time try­ing to find markets closer to home so we don’t have to pay for the trans­port cost on top of that,” says Ny­gaard.

She men­tions that the cost of trans­porta­tion to get the plas­tic to the United States out­weighs the amount of car­bon foot­print re­duced by re­cy­cling.

“You have to look at how much you are sav­ing e co­nom­ica l l y, fi­nan­cially, and en­vi­ron­men­tally wise. We are tak­ing this ma­te­rial, pro­cess­ing it, which means it has to be taken through a baler, which con­sumes en­ergy, then put it on a truck and trans­port it hun­dreds of miles, some­times even thou­sands of miles, to get it to where there is a mar­ket for it, and then have to pay an­other 70 to 110 dol­lars on top of it. It is re­ally hard for us to do that. We have to con­sider the car­bon foot­print we are leav­ing be­hind to get it all there.”

Ny­gaard men­tions there is a re­cy­cling plant in Medicine Hat that pro­duces plas­tic lum­ber. Send­ing the plas­tic there de­creases the charges of trans­port by be­ing lo­cal, but the plant re­quires the num­ber 2 cat­e­gory of plas­tics to be mixed in with the plas­tics be­ing re­cy­cled.

“It must have the num­ber 2 plas­tic mixed in with it. But I still have to pay them 40 to 60 dol­lars a tonne for them to take it and make plas­tic lum­ber. I have to sac­ri­fice my good rev­enue source of num­ber 2 plas­tic and still have to pay.”

Ny­gaard has been re­search­ing the best plan to have the plas­tic re­cy­cled with low cost.

“Ide­ally, hav­ing a lo­cal mar­ket, even in Saskatchewan, would re­duce the cost enough that it wouldn’t be such a loss to us.”

When I first started this, I thought I was go­ing to change the world. I said ‘it doesn’t mat­ter, we need to re­cy­cle ev­ery­thing we can,’ but you have to take into ac­count the car­bon foot­print, the eco­nomics, and ef­fi­ciency.”

“When I first started this, I thought I was go­ing to change the world. I said ‘it doesn’t mat­ter, we need to re­cy­cle ev­ery­thing we can,’ but you have to take into ac­count the car­bon foot­print, the eco­nomics, and ef­fi­ciency.”

Be­cause of the lack of mar­ket, many re­cy­cling pro­grams in Canada have been stor­ing their plas­tics, try­ing to wait for a bet­ter op­tion.

Ny­gaard has been hop­ing the Gov­ern­ment of Al­berta will put for­ward a plan to help with this is­sue.

“There is a num­ber of plas­tic re­cy­cling com­pa­nies around the prov­ince in the same boat. I am just wait­ing and hop­ing that the gov­ern­ment is go­ing to come up with a plan or pro­gram or even show some ini­tia­tive. It has been on hold for the last few years by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.”

“Our pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has since been changed, but this stuff is just sit­ting here, it’s start­ing to be­come a fire haz­ard and de­cay. The plas­tic com­pa­nies won’t ac­cept the plas­tic if it is start­ing to de­com­pose, so then we have to put it in a land­fill any­way.”

Ny­gaard en­cour­ages the pub­lic to take ac­tion to­ward this cause.

“Write let­ters to your MLA and politi­cians, de­mand­ing, re­quest­ing, or ask­ing that they come up with a paper and pack­ag­ing pro­to­col. If the gov­ern­ment says you have to do it, then peo­ple will start bring­ing the busi­ness closer. Thou­sands of th­ese plas­tics could be re­cy­cled but are wait­ing in stor­age be­cause it is too much to spend,” urges Ny­gaard.

Piles of plas­tic at the Drumheller and Dis­trict Solid Waste Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion is be­ing stored un­til an al­ter­nate way of re­cy­cling is found.

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