Recycling Product News
Page URL: http://rpn.baumpub.com/opinions/238/focus-on-processing-efficiencies-not-citizens
by Keith Barker
Two articles published recently in the Toronto Star, written by the Star’s reporter, Josh Tapper, highlight the state of waste diversion in Toronto. Both articles focus on the opinion that inefficient sorting by citizens is at the root of the City’s lower diversion rates.
In his March 7th article, titled “20% of Toronto’s garbage recycling ends up in landfill,” Tapper focuses on the statistic that the amount of recyclables collected through the city’s blue box program which ends up at landfill has grown over the last five years to approximately 20 percent. The implication is that perhaps “gung-ho blue binners with the best intentions” are not recycling in quite the most efficient way.
Tim Michael, acting director of policy and planning in Toronto’s waste management department, says that this may be at least partly attributed to a waste collection system where residents pay by volume for garbage that can’t be composted or recycled, while recycling is free. Toronto’s overall diversion rate is somewhere between 47 and 50 percent, while participation rates are estimated at close to 96 percent. Their blue bin program collected about 184,000 tonnes of waste in 2010. Of that, approximately 147,236 tonnes were compacted and baled for recycling.
For green waste collection in Toronto (citizens in the city has a curbside organics collection bin, as well as a blue bin) close to 93,000 tonnes were collected, of which an estimated 15 percent consisted of contaminants that ended up at the landfill.
Michael Scott, CEO of Waste Diversion Ontario insists the onus lies at the source. “If that separation isn’t done, then...at the recycling plant they’re having to spend time, and time is money, doing further separation,” he said.
On the other hand, in the words of Geoff Rathbone, Toronto’s former waste chief and current vice president of resource recovery at Progressive Waste Solutions, “If we were very stringent about not allowing any residue in the recycling stream...imagine what that would do to participation. We’re happy to get a little bit of contamination for the trade-off of getting higher participation.”
Achieving and maintaining high participation rates is obviously very important. Following from this, if the focus of our industry’s time and money was used to make separation and processing at the recycling plant more efficient, then the time and costs spent handling materials would decrease, and eventually, investment in efficiency would more than cover the costs of its implementation.
My point here is that it is surely not with citizens that we need to focus (other than continuing to provide education on the benefits of recycling, and policy that gently, but firmly, makes recycling the most economical thing to do.) When looking for increased diversion, the focus should be on helping recyclers and collectors increase efficiencies. Let’s encourage our governments to put forward policy and investment designed to make our recyclers’ jobs as easy as possible.
And let’s not forget to look to the innovators out there who manufacture the technology and systems that can make a huge difference, as well as organizations like the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries, who can provide support, and who make sure our policy makers are held accountable. The expertise and technology is out there – just waiting to be tapped into.
Our big industry shows, like our own Canadian Waste & Recycling Expo (www.cwre.ca) set for November in Toronto, and the annual Waste Expo, which took place this year from April 30 to May 3 in Las Vegas, are ideal places to do find everything needed to make increased recycling efficiencies a reality.
Waste Expo 2012 (www.wasteexpo.com) saw over 550 exhibiting companies, 40 conference sessions and workshops, and over 11,000 total participants from around the world. It is co-located with the Healthcare Waste Conference (www.healthcarewasteconf.com) and Waste Training Institute 2012 (www.wastetraininginstitute.com), an industry-specific business training initiative designed to help employees in small-, medium- and large-waste services companies run their businesses better, smarter, and more effectively.
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