St. John’s garbage bag cleaning mandate aims to tackle low recycling rates, city says

A new rule requiring residents of St. John’s to use transparent garbage bags came into effect on January 1. (City of St. John’s)

Household recycling is now mandatory in St. John’s, according to city officials, as a new clear bag mandate went into effect Jan. 1.

The initiative requires households to use clear, colorless garbage bags, and no more than one opaque or “confidential” bag per collection day.

Public Works Council. Sandy Hickman says the warrant is needed to divert recyclables from the town’s Robin Hood Bay landfill.

“A lot of people recycled, but not all of them recycled all they could,” Hickman said. “We’re just trying to change the habit.”

By helping municipal workers identify the contents of garbage bags, the Clear Bag mandate discourages households from throwing recyclables out with the trash.

Hickman said that in St. John’s, the average garbage bag contains about 50 percent recyclable material, including hazardous materials like paint, which contaminate landfills and pose a risk to the safety of municipal personnel. city.

Hickman said that while penalties will eventually be imposed on those who do not comply, “some leeway” will be given initially to allow households to adjust.

“We won’t be hard on people who don’t use them immediately,” he said.

A long time to come

Clear bag mandates have been in place in other Canadian jurisdictions for years. In 2017, CBC reported that Halifax saw a 24% drop in waste volumes after switching to clear bags two years earlier.

Central Waste Management, which covers much of central Newfoundland, also required clear garbage bags in 2016.

General Manager Ed Evans said having one in the Capital Region is a “major step” towards achieving the goals set out in the provincial solid waste management strategy, which include reducing solid waste by 50%. by 2025 compared to 2002 levels.

“This will dramatically increase the amount of material that will eventually go through a recycling process,” he said. “We hope the rest of the Avalon Peninsula follows suit.”

Com. Sandy Hickman said the city is not looking to impose fines but to increase recycling. (Jeremy Eaton / CBC)

Hickman said the decision to implement a clear bag policy was preceded by years of auditing garbage to assess how much recycling was wasted.

“In fact, we were taking samples over several years and just looking at people’s garbage in their garbage cans,” he said.

He said the city is also keen to glean information from the experiences of other jurisdictions.

“We waited a little longer to do studies in other parts of the country and around the world to see what worked well and what did not work well,” he said.

Hickman said he hopes the new program will achieve the current household recycling rate of around 75% up to 100.

“This is the next big step we are taking,” he said.

The bottom line

In addition to reducing waste in landfills, recycling is a revenue generator for the city, Hickman said.

The Robin Hood Bay facility charges the city a dumping fee of $ 82 per tonne of garbage. These fees are almost four times cheaper for recycling.

The provincial solid waste management strategy aims to reduce the amount of solid waste to landfill by 50% from 2002 levels. (Bruce Tilley / CBC)

Recycled materials like paper, cans and some plastics, which are mechanically processed and baled at Robin Hood Bay’s facilities before being shipped to market, are another money generator for the city.

Hickman said the St. John’s facility has a low contamination rate, which means the recyclables are free of residues and foreign matter, resulting in a higher market price.

“So it’s really essential to encourage people and especially to collect recycling and bring it in,” Hickman said.

More work to do

Viviana Ramirez-Luna, founder of Planet Consulting, an advocacy group for waste reduction, and a member of the Zero Waste Action Team, said the decision to impose transparent bags in the capital is a “positive step”.

But, she said, a number of other challenges need to be overcome to get recycling rates where they need to be.

“Finding out what’s recyclable and what isn’t is always confusing,” Ramirez-Luna said. “When you put something in your bag, you have to be really sure that it has to be there or not. “

Ramirez-Luna said tackling environmental apathy is another big step.

“A lot of people don’t really care about the environment,” she said. “Some people don’t recycle because they don’t believe the industry is working, because we’ve seen a lot of recyclable material end up in landfills.”

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