Overflow forces recyclables to be dumped
A “critical” overflow problem at its Alexandria recycling plant has forced North Glengarry to dump recyclable materials -plastic and paper products that can no longer be sold to China after it erected its “Green Fence.”
While the township attempts to solve the issue, people are being asked to help out by consuming less. “We encourage our customers to continue to recycle and to take pride in the amount of material that is being diverted from landfills. But we also urge them to find ways to reduce the amount of overall waste that they are generating, whether it goes into the blue bin or the trash,” says the municipality.
For the last few weeks, materials that would otherwise be processed at the Recyclage Alexandria Recycling Équipe (RARE) depot in the industrial park have been trucked to the Glen Robertson landfill.
Municipalities across Canada have had to stockpile plastics or paper that can no longer be sold to the Chinese market.
“This has created a significant problem with overflow of material that cannot currently be processed. Complicating matters are regulatory standards limiting the amount of materials that can be stored on site,” the township explains in a press release.
RARE continues to process material that can be sold to recycling manufacturers. There are domestic and American buyers for used steel cans, aluminum, cardboard and certain plastics. However, much of the material received at RARE is not marketable. For example at this time there are no viable markets for plastics numbered 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
RARE is still selling used newspaper overseas, but due to efforts to meet the stringent sorting requirements that came into effect this year, its “efficiency has decreased by half.”
The centre’s environmental compliance approval allows for 650 tonnes of material to be kept on site. Non-compliance would expose the township to charges, fines and other penalties.
“Based on all of this, the township has had to landfill unmarketable recyclable material. This does not mean that consumers should reduce their recycling efforts. Rather, we are asking that you help us by being more vigilant in reducing the amount of contaminants going into our blue bins. We will continue to strive to improve the efficiencies at RARE and to seek new markets for our various recyclable materials,” the municipality says.
Meanwhile, the township has notified the Cornwall District Office of the Ministry of Environment that the situation is critical and
sought help from the province. A ministry inspector has visited the facility. What you can do to help
One of the most common recycling mistakes is leaving the cap on your water bottle or other storage container. The bottle itself can be recycled, but the caps are made of a different material that has to be recycled separately.
Electronics, batteries and light bulbs should not be placed in your recycling bin. You can bring your unwanted electronics and other ewaste, including televisions, computers, printers, speakers and other electronic devices directly to the e-waste facility at RARE, at 265 Industrial Ave. It is open Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
In its statement, the municipality notes, “As consumers, we all feel better about trash when we know that some of it is being recycled. There is comfort in knowing that we have made an effort to reduce our environmental footprint and to find a new purpose for cast-off items. Unfortunately, many of the things that land in our blue bins don't belong there. Items such as clothing, furniture and shoes can be reused, but they are not recyclable. These items are better donated to local charities.”
Food-stained materials like pizza boxes, used paper plates, napkins, paper towels, and jars with food residue still in them, should not be put in a recycling bin. While the materials themselves are recyclable, once they are contaminated with food, they become a waste product. The food still left in these containers complicates the recycling process by damaging the recycling machines and contaminating the other materials.
RARE receives, sorts and processes recyclables from North Glengarry residents and numerous neighbouring municipalities.
The township “maintains some of the highest diversion rates in the province. This is a testament to the efforts made by our users to reduce their waste and to recycle as many products as possible.”
The RARE plant has been in operation since the early 1990s. Over the years, purity standards for recycled materials have changed. This has resulted in adaptations of the R.A.R.E. sorting lines to meet these stricter standards.
Manufacturing companies that purchase recyclable materials are demanding higher standards and cleaner materials with fewer contaminants. If these standards are not met, some of these recyclable materials get designated as waste products.
Prior to 2018, China purchased approximately two-thirds of all of North America's recyclables.
RARE sold virtually all of its post-consumer newspaper to China.
There were no domestic markets for this material classified as ONP#6 and ONP#8. The closure of China's ports last summer, under what it calls the “Green Fence” program, halted import of all recycling materials that did not meet its newer, more stringent quality standards.
This created a world-wide prob- lem affecting all entities that recycle, especially those in North America, Europe and Australia. In addition to the new standards, China has reduced its acceptance of most recycled material to 1/10th of one per cent of the tonnage it accepted in the past.
To make matters more difficult, China no longer accepts any plastic such as bottles, bags, and various plastic containers. The world's largest consumer of recyclable materials has reduced its acceptance of post-consumer plastics to zero. The lack of notice by China of the port closures has created a situation where recycling facilities worldwide are frantically trying to find alternative buyers.
NO PLACE TO GO: Municipalities have no place to sell their recyclable plastics and paper products.