OVWRC no longer recycling Styrofoam, plastic bags
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre general manager Sue McCrae holds examples of styrofoam and grocery bags that will no longer be accepted as recyclables at the facility as of Oct. 1. These materials must now be placed in regular garbage and not recycle bins.
As of this fall, the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre (OVWRC) will no longer recycle Styrofoam or grocery bags.
Concluding that taking in and processing Polystyrene and film plastic has become cost prohibitive, the waste management board decided on June 29 to remove such items from container recycling. Effective Oct. 1, residents in Pembroke, Petawawa, Laurentian Valley and North Algona/Wilberforce will be asked to place these materials in regular garbage.
Laurentian Valley Mayor Steve Bennett, the chairman of the waste management board, said such a change in policy, and the first time that major materials have been removed from the system since the recycling program started in 2002, is necessary to utilize taxpayer's dollars in the most effective way.
“In reality, this material doesn't save significant landfill space,” said Bennett. “It has limited end markets, causes significant maintenance issues at the centre and the revenue received from the sale of Styrofoam and film plastic is far less than the cost to manage it. We could be investing that money and staff time into other waste diversion projects that would save much more landfill space.”
Currently, the program only accepts bread bags, produce bags, outside milk bags, blue newspaper bags and grocery/retail bags. It receives Styrofoam that is typically used in packaging to protect newly purchased household items, such as TV sets or sound systems. The centre is already preparing an extensive promotion and education campaign.
“This will be a big change for our residents,” conceded OVWRC communications officer Elizabeth Graham.
Styrofoam, for example, accounts for 40 bails of materials which are collected, packed and shipped on a tractor trailer to the end market once a year. The centre also pays for tipping fees based on weight and the shipping costs. Based on the last load the centre shipped on April 22, it cost $24,000 in salaries and fees alone in processing. That number doesn't include the collection cost.
To fill a bunker and complete one bunker of plastic bags, it takes one month of sorting, however, there is not a lot of product coming in. Since October, 2014, the centre has processed only 20 bails. Over the past six years it has received just $2,135 in revenue. More problematic is some households through into their bins non-recyclable bags, such as sandwich bags, potting soil bags and plastic wrap. These contaminants have to then be picked out of the conveyor line and, in some cases, machinery is damaged by these items.
“They don't make up a huge part of the waste stream,” added Graham.
Provincially, waste recovery centres are finding Polystyrene and film plastic don't amount to much in the way of materials being recycled. Styrofoam amounts for one per cent of the garbage in the top 10 urban centres in Ontario, while plastic film makes up just seven per cent.
OVWRC general manager Sue McCrae said the board agreed with Mike Birett, managing director of the Continuous Improvement Fund, a provincial organization mandated to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Ontario's Blue Box program, who recently told them that low value materials such as Polystyrene and film plastic have higher operating costs and receive less waste diversion funding as a result. The centre currently gets $575,000 in municipal funding for the recycling program but funding is based on how efficient the facility is.
“People want to recycle and they want to do the right thing,” she said who credits area residents with wholeheartedly embracing recycling as a way of life. “They feel good about what they are putting in their Blue Box but we have to be smart about this.”
The centre needs to begin spending money diverting materials that have higher monetary value, McCrae noted. As an example, cardboard accounts for loads that can be shipped every two days to end market. Ultimately, she concluded, the main goal is to extend the life of the landfill site located on Woito Road west of Pembroke.