Recycling Still A Hurdle

·6 min read

In 2019 REACT removed the majority of recycling bins from Wakaw leaving the local community with no other option than throwing the majority of recyclable materials into their household trash. Slowly other options are coming to the forefront for those who want to divert some of those items away from landfills. The October 3, 2019 edition of the Wakaw Recorder featured an article addressing the changes that occurred to the recycling in town and the explanations given by REACT.

Since the fall of 2019, recycling opportunities in Wakaw have been limited to paper products such as newsprint, magazine paper, office paper and envelopes, cardboard and tin cans. However, for those who can travel to either Prince Albert or Saskatoon, or who know of someone travelling that way, TerraCycle Canada has partnered with Staples Canada to collect and recycle any brand of pen and cap, mechanical pencils, markers and caps, highlighters and caps, and permanent markers and caps. After checking the link that accompanied the announcement from Staples, we find that all three Staples stores in Saskatoon as well as the one in Prince Albert are participating in the program. So, when the kids leave the lids off their markers and they dry out, don’t throw them out in the trash. Start a writing instrument recycling bin, then take them to Staples. With more than 300 locations participating, there likely isn’t one too far away. To find out which of the Staples locations are participating go to https://bit.ly/3n83bpl

An exploration of TerraCycle’s website (terracycle.com/en-CA#) reveals a significant number of recycling programs that are funded by brands, manufacturers and retailers that individuals or groups can be involved in for free. Some of the programs have drop off points like the writing instrument one with Staples, while others like the Schneiders* Lunch MateTM recycling program will provide a pre-paid shipping label to attach to your box of recycling and then have UPS pick it up. For other recycling they do have what they call “zero waste” boxes which can be purchased and used to recycle a seemingly endless array of products, with the return shipping included in the cost of the box, which is somewhat costly. However, if a few individuals or households go together it might be a more affordable option that could divert some recyclable material from our landfills. Groups can also apply to be collection sites for some recyclables and raise money for a school or non-profit organization.

TerraCycle started as an American company that now has offices around the globe. It all started in the fall of 2000 when 19-year-old Tom Szaky and some of his friends from Princeton University in New Jersey made a trip to Canada and saw how worms could create fertilizer from kitchen scraps. He returned to Princeton and entered the world of entrepreneurship, creating plant food. Until 2007 the focus of the company was primarily on plant foods, but in August of that year they launched the Drink Pouch Brigade that was designed to collect and repurpose used drink pouches. Neither TerraCycle nor the founding sponsor Honest Tea knew what to expect, but the response was deemed a 100% success and more recycling endeavors quickly followed.

A Loraas representative told The Wakaw Recorder in 2019, “People also have to remember that items are only recyclable if someone is willing to accept and use them after they have been recovered from the waste stream. If the demand for a certain recycled material drops beyond a certain point, the markets disappear and it’s no longer recyclable.” While TerraCycle uses third party processing facilities, their profit comes when they sell the ready to be used ‘new’ product whether that is plastic pellets or synthetic fibre, to manufacturers who produce new end products. So while Canadian recyclers are wringing their collective hands saying there is no market, a private American company that started 21 years ago selling ‘worm poo’ now has offices around the world including here in Canada, and is listed on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchange. Somewhere things just don’t add up, but one thing is certain the problem with plastics is not going to be changed overnight and in all likelihood, until biodegradable ‘plastic’ can replace the plastic which has been woven intricately into all aspects of our lives, it will continue to be a battle that won’t go away.

On January 23, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan released the Solid Waste Management Strategy with a vision to “reduce and manage solid waste going to landfills using a practical, sustainable and integrated waste management system that protects the environment and promotes economic development and innovation.” The Strategy, the document goes on to state, recognizes that everybody has a significant role to play in reducing the amount of solid waste we send to landfill. Each one of us can reduce the amount of waste we produce; we can reuse items as much as possible; we can recycle waste items so their materials can be recovered and reused; and compost organic waste residues.

The Strategy commits the province to reducing personal waste by 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2040, since presently Saskatchewan produces the second-highest amount of waste per capita in Canada with an average of 842 kg of waste per person. That is an astounding 1852 pounds per person! The problem with the Strategy is that it is a plan without a structure to make it feasible for anyone outside of urban areas. How does one divert things from landfills when there is nowhere to divert them to? With 35% of the population living in rural areas, the Strategy doesn’t really address the reality of rural life.

The six goals of the Strategy are:

Words like ‘goals’ and ‘studies’ and ‘collaboration’ are great words, but alone they achieve nothing. It is easy to set goals, but if the methods to achieve the goals aren’t available, it is pointless. The authors of the ‘Strategy’ also state that success will “require innovation and local solutions to better understand the value of the province's waste as a resource and build upon the success of Saskatchewan's established recycling and waste stewardship programs.” To see waste as a resource is difficult for this writer due to the very definition of the word resource. A resource is any property that can be converted into supplies, or on which one depends for supply or support; materials or other assets that can be drawn on by person or organization in order to function effectively (Oxford Dictionary), while waste is material that is not wanted or the unusable remains or byproducts of something. (ibid)

Agreeably, education is a must. Many people believe that if something is deemed recyclable then regardless of its current state, it is still recyclable. Unfortunately, in this province we find ourselves facing a conundrum. Until people can relearn how to properly recycle (clean it, sort it, toss it) any stand alone program will continue to suffer the fate of that which has gone before, too much expense for too little revenue and without a dedicated program to deal with recycling, people will be forced to continue to toss recyclable materials in the trash, filling up the dwindling number of landfills.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder