It's Time to Up Our Recycling Game

·3 min read

This reporter reached out to Wakaw’s Mayor Steve Skoworodko to see if there was any word of change in the recycling situation in the town stemming from the release of the government’s “Solid Waste Management Strategy” last year. Quoting directly from Introduction page of the Strategy: “Discarding waste in a landfill should always be your last resort.” Yet at the recent Annual General Meeting of REACT, nothing regarding rural recycling has changed and sadly, that is not surprising. The Mayor had this to say:

“It’s unfortunate that we are at the mercy of companies that accept recycling products and that the amount of items that are recyclable has decreased.

The other major problem is that individuals also need to do a better job of sorting their items. All too often items that are either dirty or are not recyclable end up in our recycling system costing the recycling company more money and time to sort on their end. Individuals need to be sorting items appropriately as we are at risk of losing what we currently have.”

There is precious little that we can currently recycle in Wakaw as it is, and if the price of not changing how we as individuals act when it comes to recycling, is to lose the recycling bins entirely, it seems like a perfect time for everyone to step up their game. To put this in a perspective that all can fathom, think of getting soil for a yard or garden. If the free soil that you go and pick up turns out to be full of sticks and rocks and is contaminated with noxious weed seeds, it is easy to understand that the free product was not worth going to pick up in the first place and most likely would not be utilized again. So it is with recycling. Recycling that is continuously contaminated or filled with items that cannot be used is quite simply not worth the effort to pick up.

If the tin can that gets tossed into the blue bin still has its label on, it is no longer a metal recyclable, it is a mixed recyclable, namely metal and paper which go through two different processes. Similarly, if a metal can still contains food residue, it is not a metal recyclable, it’s garbage. A metal can is crushed and shredded, then smelted into metal ‘bricks’ or sheets which are then sold to manufacturers to reuse. Food residue is a contaminant and would cause impurities in the reduced metal thereby making it unsellable. The two minutes it takes the consumer to remove the paper label and clean the can save the recycling company many man hours used to sort through the truck loads of tin cans that are picked up monthly, which in the long run reduce their costs and make the recycling process more beneficial. Recycling is after all a business, with expenses that need to be covered, not the least of which is wages. The efficiency with which materials are sorted and prepared for processing supports the viability of the business which in turn supports jobs.

If there is one thing this pandemic has demonstrated it is that people can change their behaviours and habits if they want to, no one is too old to change. It takes 21 days for a new routine or a new behaviour to become so ingrained into our mind that it becomes a new habit, a new way of doing things. Why not take the next 21 days to form a new habit, to improve your recycling etiquette. There is no step that is too small because if a whole town does one small step, it makes a really big footprint.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder