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Recycle 2.0: Are you a Gold Star Recycler?
Putting the wrong thing in your curbside recycling tote might seem like a small issue, but it is a big problem in the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD).
“Our region has the highest rate of contamination in curbside recycling on Vancouver Island, and one of the highest rates in the province,” explains Board Chair Jon Lefebure. “To tackle the issue and clear up any confusion about the program, the CVRD is launching the ‘Recycle 2.0: Recycle Right at the Curb’ campaign this summer.”
Staff will be auditing curbside recycling and checking for plastic bags and other contaminants. If no contaminants are found, residents will find a ‘Gold Star’ sticker on their tote to indicate the right items are being recycled at the curb.
If contaminants are found, staff will inform residents their tote contained items that are not accepted in the curbside program by leaving an “Oops!” sticker and specifying on the sticker what items were found. The stickers point residents to the Recycling Hotline and www.cvrd.bc.ca/recycling where there are many helpful resources to help residents learn how to recycle right at the curb. If contaminants are still found on the next collection pick-up day, staff may not pick-up the material and will leave a sticker specifying why the tote was not emptied.
Why is contamination in curbside recycling such a big deal?
“When the wrong items go into the curbside tote, entire loads of recyclables become trashed, sorting machines break down, and the region faces financial penalties, which make recycling more expensive,” explains Jason Adair, Operations Superintendent.
“Our region’s top contaminants, plastic bags and other film plastics, are especially problematic because they get tangled in automated sorting machinery and must be picked out by hand – a tedious and expensive task. Also, when acceptable items are put in the curbside tote inside a plastic bag, these items become garbage because they can’t be sorted by the automated machinery and the concealed items become a safety risk for staff.”
In the past plastic bags were accepted in the CVRD curbside recycling program. However, in 2014 Multi-Material BC (MMBC) was formed in response to a new provincial recycling regulation that requires producers to cover the costs of recycling the packaging and printed paper they supply into the BC market. MMBC now finances, and is responsible for the performance of most residential recycling programs for packaging and printed paper throughout the province. With this change, many new items were added to the list of accepted materials – including hot and cold beverage cups and lids, milk cartons, and plastic gardening pots; however, plastic bags (and all film plastics) were removed from the CVRD curbside program.
Fortunately, plastic bags and other film plastics (bags for bread, produce, frozen food, bulk foods, etc.) are recyclable and there are many drop-off locations throughout the region, including CVRD recycling centres. Other common recyclable items not accepted at the curbside like glass, Styrofoam, clothing and refundable containers can also be brought to recycling centres.
The “Recycle 2.0: Recycle Right at the Curb” campaign aims to recognize residents who are doing a great job at recycling right, and encourage residents who are unsure what goes in their curbside tote to utilize one of the many resources available. If in doubt, just ask!
Visit www.cvrd.bc.ca/recycling for more information on the education campaign.