Offal, diapers and chandelier make the blue box “yuck” list
“Hunting season is not good for us,” remarks Linda Andrushkoff, general manager of the RARE recycling centre in Alexandria.
Deer heads and geese carcasses are just some of the more repulsive and more memorable items workers at the Recyclage Alexandria Recycling Équipe facility have been forced to handle over the years.
A lengthy list of the odd, the bad and the ugly has been compiled, ranging from the gross, such as dirty diapers and a plastic glove covered in animal waste, to the intriguing, such as a rumpled leopard-skin gown and an assortment of “crunchy things.” One person dropped off a chandelier. The fixture could not be recycled. “And even worse, it was ugly,” relates Ms. Andrushkoff.
Although the blue box program has been around for decades, a refresher course is obviously required for many residents, who are still not clear on what can be recycled and what belongs in a garbage bag.
The 16 workers sort and process about 4,300 tonnes every year at the centre located in Alexandria’s industrial park.
An estimated 11 per cent of this volume is trash, refuse that is tossed into blue boxes and which must be separated from recyclables at the RARE plant.
“Clothes, shoes, toilet seats, toys, food, shower curtains...we see it all here,” says Ms. Andrushkoff. “Some people empty their pantries into blue boxes.”
She almost felt bad for one misguided green thumb. “Somebody took great care in carefully bundling up a small mountain of pots from a garden. Whoever it was did a beautiful job of making a package. Unfortunately, not one of them could be recycled. People have good intentions, but a lot of the stuff they leave for recycling is garbage.”
Receiving blue box materials from North and South Glengarry, North Stormont and Russell, RARE has been in the spotlight lately after North Glengarry has been forced to dump large quantities of plastic and paper that can no longer be shipped to China.
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.
During a tour of the RARE plant last week, Ms. Andrushkoff repeatedly pointed to items that never should be put in blue boxes.
Grease-covered pizza boxes, potato chip bags, black plastic tops from drink containers, Christmas decorations and wood are just some of the articles that must be removed from the reyclables and shipped to a landfill.
“There is a lack of education and knowledge about what can be recycled,” observes Ms. Andrushkoff.
The ideal solution is for homeowners to sort their waste at the source -- in their own homes. Yet, as the mixed bag of debris at RARE proves, many people cannot distinguish between recyclables and refuse.
Sorting at RARE would be easier if municipalities divided blue box collection, suggests the centre manager.
One week only paper would be accepted in blue boxes, the next would be a plastics-only pick-up week. A dual system would require coordinated efforts to alter collection systems and habits.
At one time, garbage and blue box materials
were picked up separately. Contamination became a more serious problem when garbage bag limits were introduced when many homeowners simply dropped excess trash into blue boxes.
Now a “60-40” truck is used to collect trash and blue box materials; 60 per cent of the truck’s capacity is reserved for garbage.
Education may help reduce the impact of the global waste management problem. However, many contend that the answer lies at the source -- the producers of plastics.
Ms. Andrushkoff believes that new legislation is required to shift the trash burden from taxpayers to container manufacturers.
“Waste disposal has been down- loaded onto municipalities,” she points out. With landfill capacity being used up rapidly, “The plastic producers ought to be held responsible for landfills,” she maintains.
STEADY STREAM: The RARE recycling centre in Alexandria handles about 4,300 tonnes of materials every year. Unfortunately, about 11 per cent of this volume is garbage.
RECOGNIZE ANYTHING?: Here are photos of just some of the trash that winds up in blue boxes. A large percentage of the materials handled at the RARE recycling centre in Alexandria must be taken to a landfill.