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Municipalities launch public education program for recycling

Cumberland County’s three municipalities and their solid waste partners are launching a public education program to reduce the amount of contamination in recyclables going to the county’s solid waste facility at Little Forks for processing.

The Town of Amherst, Town of Oxford, the Municipality of Cumberland, Miller Waste and GFL Environmental are launching the campaign that features solid waste messaging as well as radio spots on CFTA and CKDH encouraging people to take care when sorting recyclables.

When sorting recyclables, residents/businesses are required to put paper products in a separate bag from plastic containers. Materials that are not sorted properly cause operational issues and delays with processing.

Dual stream recycling has been in place for five years.

The bag for recycled paper can include books, cardboard, cereal/cracker boxes, flyers, magazines and newspapers and paper egg cartons.

The bag for recyclable containers can include aluminum/steel cans, glass bottles and jars, milk cartons, plastic bags and plastic containers.

Containers must be rinsed out to remove any food or other items.

The campaign follows an audit of the recycling stream by Strum Consulting that found 43.9 per cent of the residential plastics stream is contaminated while the fibre stream has 11.2 per cent contamination. In both cases, the significant contaminant was either another recyclable material, or not cleaned.

In the commercial sector, cardboard had a contamination rate of 17.5 per cent and 19.3 per cent on the two days of the audit, while the plastics stream had a contamination rate of 64.7 per cent. Material not being separated into the correct stream was the issue while commercial loads also had garbage as a contaminant.

The target for contamination is 10 per cent or less.

“We need to do a better job of sorting recyclable material into the proper stream,” GFL Environmental manager Stephen Rayworth said. “If there’s a high level of contamination it all goes into the land fill and that’s pretty significant.”

There are provincially mandated targets for diversion of recyclable materials and compost to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfills. These targets help extend the life of landfill facilities, but are also better for the environment.

It also comes with a significant financial cost.

Strum Consulting conducted the audit in July and September 2023 at the central landfill in Little Forks, which receives approximately 12,000 tonnes of waste materials annually including C&D (construction and demolition) waste, asbestos waste, municipal solid waste, recyclables and compost.

To ensure municipalities comply with processing standards, Miller Waste will be increasing its curbside inspections beginning Feb. 1, 2024, and materials not sorted property will be rejected at the curb. This will require residents/businesses to open the bags and sort them into their proper streams.