Veteran Recyclers Have a New “R” – Relearn
Guest Written by Joanne Fedyk, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council
Recycling opportunities have existed in the province for a long time. Programs have stopped and started, some have continued for decades. In all cases, the process of making the materials acceptable for recycling has changed. For example, Saskatoon’s newspaper recycling program has been around since the 70s. Back then, you had to use string or twine to tie the newspapers into bundles. Magazines were the scourge of the recycling industry. Envelopes with windows were evil – you had to rip out the window to save the rest of envelope.
Recycling has changed considerably since then. There are three general ‘stages’ of recycling: collection, processing and re-manufacturing. Collection is just gathering everything up, most often using large common bins or smaller bins at the curb. Processing involves separating the things that have been collected and preparing them for transport to the remanufacturers, who are the ones that actually ‘recycle’ – create new products from old. Changes in any of these three stages can alter what recycling programs want people to do. The bundling of the newspapers was a requirement of the collectors. The bins were emptied by someone jumping in and tossing the newspapers into a truck. Bundles made it much easier to do this. The magazine problems, on the other hand, were a re-manufacturer problem. At the time, their systems couldn’t handle the high clay content in the glossy magazine paper.
Technological change in all three areas has resulted in different requirements for consumers. In general, things have gotten easier. Many communities in the province have commingled collection, meaning that all materials can be put in the bin together. This makes it simpler for us (if a little hard on the head for those of us who’ve been carefully separating things for years). Everything –paper, plastic, tin cans, and (depending on the community) glass– goes in loose, except for:
- Shredded paper – put this in a plastic bag and tie it well. When possible, use a clear plastic bag – this helps the sorters ‘catch’ it. Shredded paper that is loose falls to the floor in the processing stage and is swept up and thrown away.
- Plastic bags – if your recycling program accepts plastic bags, put them all into one plastic bag and tie it tightly. Unbagged plastic bags get tangled in processing equipment and force shut downs to clean them out.
Don’t worry about:
- Taking windows out of envelopes – they’ve changed remanufacturing systems and what the windows are made of
- Removing staples from documents –they use magnets to get them out during the remanufacturing process
- Taking Labels off cans – they burn off in the recycling process
Do worry about:
- Food residues – containers should be relatively clean. Some people put food containers in the dishwasher to make a full load. I rinse containers in my dirty dishwater. Scraping them out works too.
- Size – very small things, whether paper, metal, or plastic, don’t make it through the recycling process. They end up on the floor with the unbagged shredded paper. Try to make smaller things part of bigger things. Put small bits of paper into a larger envelope or paper bag. Put the tops of tin cans inside the can and squeeze the can together a bit to keep the top from falling out. Combine small bits of foil together into a bigger ball.
- Unacceptable materials – make sure you don’t put things in the recycling bin that the program says it doesn’t accept. They will NOT be recycled, and they can contaminate the accepted materials.
For additional information and recycling options for all sorts of items, check out our recycling database at saskwastereduction.ca. We have information recycling programs in every community in the province.
Angie Bugg manages energy conservation projects for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and is an active member of McClure United Church. You can contact her at email@example.com
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)