Environment

Stockpile too big: North Glengarry sends recyclables to landfill following loss of overseas buyer

By Louise Sproule

March 20, 2018

The Township of North Glengarry has a critical situation on its hands, as Recyclage Alexandria Recycling Équipe (R.A.R.E.) has had to stockpile certain types of plastics and paper which are no longer being purchased by overseas markets, more specifically by China, which has introduced newer, and more stringent quality standards for recyclables.

Although there are Canadian and American buyers for cans, aluminum, cardboard and certain plastics, there are currently no viable markets for plastics numbered 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, according to a press release issued by the township.

But because R.A.R.E.’s Environmental Compliance Approval allows for 650 tonnes of material to be kept on-site, unmarketable recyclable materials have had to be landfilled. Linda Andrushkoff, spokesperson for R.A.R.E., said she would calculate the total tonnage sent to landfill and would be in contact with The Review with more information.

The press release says that although R.A.R.E. continues to sell used newspaper overseas, efforts to meet stringent sorting requirements that came into effect this year have reduced R.A.R.E.’s efficiency by half.

According to Linda Andrushkoff of R.A.R.E., China regulations demand that less than one-half of one per cent of recyclables can be anything other than the recyclable items. Nothing like cardboard, for example, can be mixed in with newspaper.

Post-industrial recyclables are more desirable to buyers, she said, because for example, unused water bottles from a manufacturer are pure, whereas post-consumer recyclables may be dirty.

Consumers, packaging are causing problems

The problem is what we consume. And the packaging that goes with it, much of which is “single-use”, like plastic jars, instead of glass ones, and cans, too. You don’t see many products in glass jars any more, she noted.

People are also more included to buy cheap, new products, many of which have a short life-span and end up in the waste stream.

The township’s press release is making a plea to residents to be more vigilant about what they are putting into blue boxes to avoid placing unrecyclable items in their blue boxes (see advice at the end of this article).

Andrushkoff is clear about this. Everyone needs to reasonably rinse containers before recycling them.

“We have people putting a full jar of peanut butter in the recycling bin. That’s no good,” she says.

“We have to reduce, re-use and then recycle,” she continued, suggesting that much more needs to be done.

Recycle Action in Hawkesbury is doing okay, but plastic grocery bags are a problem: no one wants them

“Everyone is full everywhere, but we’re not,” says Robert Lessard, Director of Operations at Recycle Action in Hawkesbury, which sorts and sells recyclables from the Town of Hawkesbury, Champlain Township, the Township of East Hawkesbury, the Township of Alfred-Plantagenet, The Nation Municipality and the Village of Casselman.

Lessard says that he has two local buyers for his cardboard and papers and says going more or less “local” has saved him. The other thing that Recycle Action has going for it is its quality, Lessard says.

“Our recyclables are all sorted by hand and buyers want what we have,” says Lessard, who figures that machine-sorting has produced poor quality recyclables which were ultimately rejected by China, which was the largest importer of recycled goods.

“I have a truck right now that is leaving with 20 tonnes of paper headed for Brampton,” Lessard said.

The only thing that is a problem for Lessard and for all recycling facilities right now is plastic grocery bags. Because they are an inferior quality of plastic, those are harder to sell. Right now, Lessard says he is baling them and he is looking for a buyer. Agricultural round-bale bags are also a problem, due to the deteriorated quality of the plastic after being left out in the sun, he says.

“There is one company in Sarnia that buys it, washes the bags, shreds them and makes plastic pellets and he is overwhelmed with product right now,” said Lessard. The plastic pellets are used to make siding, park benches and similar items, he said.

Recycle Action, located at 1301 Spence Avenue in Hawkesbury, employs about 40 people, but not all of them are full-time, he said. The facility, which employs people with physical or mental challenges, is overseen by Groupe Convex and also hires summer students and has co-op students there from time to time.

“It would have been easy to go to China, but I didn’t go that route. We are a social enterprise so we tried to keep it local,” Lessard said, adding that Recycle Action accepts styrofoam, which is unusual and that it also accepts electronics.

Lessard said it might also work in their favour that the Hawkesbury facility is a relatively small one, processing about 5,000 tonnes of recyclables per year.

The R.A.R.E. plant in Alexandria has been in operation since the early 1990s.

The Township of North Glengarry is asking residents to consume less and to continue to recycle, but it is urging citizens to “find ways to reduce the amount of overall waste that they are generating, whether it goes into the blue bin or the trash.”

R.A.R.E. has been in operation since the 1990s and used to be the destination for recyclables from more Eastern Ontario municipalities, prior to the establishment or Recycle Action.

North Glengarry advises:

Do not leave the cap on your water bottle or other storage container. The bottle itself can be recycled, but the caps are made of a different material that has to be recycled separately.

Electronics, batteries and light bulbs should not be placed in your recycling bin. You can bring your unwanted electronics and other e-waste, including televisions, computers, printers, speakers and other electronic devices directly to the e-waste facility at R.A.R.E.  Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled. R.A.R.E is located at 265 Industrial Avenue, in Alexandria. It is open from Monday to Friday, between 7 am and 3:30 pm.