Of­fal, di­a­pers and chan­de­lier make the blue box “yuck” list

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY RICHARD MAHONEY News Staff

“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.

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