Recycling in Calgary
The city of Calgary has made recycling extremely convenient. Starting the blue cart program in July 2009, residents now had their own personal recycling bin to place recyclables in for a weekly pick up. The biggest bonus... no more sorting! yippee! Before my family decided a journey towards a zero waste home I was interested in our recycling program and decided to tag along with my father-in-law to learn more about Calgary's recycling plant that is owned by Cascade. I highly recommend checking it out because no matter what age you are, each individual will take away a few points that they never knew before. The point that resonated the most with me was "Calgary is great at recycling...BUT". Calgary is awesome at recycling, but there are TWO R's before recycling that we are completely ignoring - Reduce & Reuse. Our tour guide stated that the amount of recycling that comes in during this time of year because of holiday parties is huge. Perhaps with a focus on refusing, reducing and reusing we could reduce our recycling. That being said, we have to start somewhere and baby steps upon baby steps always lead to progress. The best thing you can do in regards to recycling is to know your city's program inside and out.
Not everything is recyclable in Calgary even though it has a recycling code on it and not knowing the ins and outs of your city's recycling program could make it highly inefficient. Did you know that Calgary does not recycle styrofoam even though it has a #6 on it? Our recycling plant is privately owned and recycling styrofoam is simply not profitable. If styrofoam comes into the plant and sticks on to other recyclable materials via static electricity then it all needs to be thrown out in the garbage. What a waste! Another commonly ignored fact is if recyclable materials are placed in a plastic bag and put into the blue cart, and it isn't shredded paper or plastic bags within a plastic bag, it is automatically thrown out when it reaches the plant! This is because to keep our recycling plant running as efficiently as possible with little to no man power we rely on mechanical sorters and recyclables in plastic bags can't be sorted. Learn about sorters! One of the downsides to Calgary's sorting machines are it can not tell the difference between a standard plastic cup (recyclable!) and a coffee cup (wax liner - not recyclable) and because people continually place coffee cups in the recycling we simply do not recycle plastic cups. If plastic cups are found they are thrown out regardless of their recycling capability. Sad day!
Here are five other nifty YYC recycling tips:
1. Recyclables have to be cleaned - rinse out that ketchup bottle!
2. If you can stretch a plastic with your fingers you can recycle it (plastic bags, plastic packaging, etc) if it crinkles you can't (cereal bag, chip bag, etc)
3. Mixed packaging is not recyclable - dang you frozen juice containers, toothpaste, deodorant containers!
4. We have a great "where to recycle" online resources and if you're not sure if you can recycle an item check there too. Find out here
5. If you can donate it (cups, plates, ceramics, etc) - donate it - don't recycle it and they prefer it to be donated or put in the trash :(
Calgary has come a long way in waste management from our blue cart program established in 2009, to launching our compost program in 2012 (which will roll out to all communities in 2017), all the way to saving TWENTY SIX MILLION KILOGRAMS of tree debris, from Snowtember tree apocalypse of 2014, from going into the landfill by turning it into mulch and redistributing it to YYC parks. Check out how Calgary's waste management has done historically here.
YYC you are pretty spectacular.