Climate Action Powell River


Demystifying Recycling 


At the end of a long day, you head into the grocery store,
perhaps guided by your appetite. Almost
inevitably, what ends up in your cart comes in a plethora of packaging
types. But even thought all your food
came from one place, some of that packaging needs sorting. Well intended, you
rinse and toss it all into your recycling box to be better sorted ‘later.’ Meanwhile, you and yours bring in other
paper, plastic, styrofoam packaging for various bits and bobs picked up around
town. Maybe a coffee maker stops
working, a shoe blows out, you do some renovations, and clean out your
basement. Suddenly, your pile of
recyclables expands to include paint cans, light bulbs, a small appliance, and
textiles. You begin wondering how and
even if these things belong in the recycling bin and why things got so
complicated to begin with. 


Well, pour yourself a cup of coffee before you delve into
the bin with us. In short, recycling is as complex as the materials we are
currently making packaging and products out of. Which is to say, very diverse. Here is a short list of why recyclables
need sorting.  


1. Plastic alone has 7 resin codes – you know, those
triangles on the bottom of certain items? All of these have their own chemical make up, and particular melting
points, etc. Good news is that machines do much of the sorting for us after
we’ve co-mingled them in the bin. 


2. Plastics labeled compostable or biodegradable are
garbage. Wow, really? Just when you thought you were investing in
something great for the planet. The
challenges with these types of items are plenty. It is hard, if not impossible, for staff (and
the average recycler) to distinguish these from regular plastics, and so they
end up contaminating plastic recycling streams and compost piles. Beyond this,
many brands only break down into small pieces of themselves rather than actual
food for the soil. And, compostable
plastic in the regular plastic stream results in products that are less durable. 


3. Curbside recycling accepts cleaned metal, plastic, and
paper containers, along with printed paper and cardboard. Why no foam, glass or plastic bags? Foam and
glass break into small pieces and contaminate the rest of the load, and plastic
bags wrap around the sorting equipment causing huge delays and break downs at
recycling facilities. Take foam, glass
containers (not products, like drinking glasses) to any of our recycling depots
instead. You’ll also find battery,
garbage bag, small appliance, cork, cell phone, and pen recycling at many
locations. Augusta, Rona, and Canadian Tire also take light bulbs (unsmashed,


4. Nowadays, paper needs to have all plastic bits removed.
It used to be okay to include your envelope windows and plastic lined pet food
bags, but not any longer. Foreign paper
processors never wanted these included anyway, and now are much more stringent
on allowable contaminants, like these plastics. So, those coffee, chip, and pet
food bags are currently garbage, folks. 


There you have it. Your crash course in local recycling. Still confused? Ask depot
operators for assistance, refer to the online resource of the Waste Wise Guide (paper copies available at City
Hall), or write your waste reduction education team, Let’s Talk Trash. 


Let’s Talk Trash is the Waste Reduction Education program
of the qathet Regional District. Contact them at