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Curbside glass collection: City staff explain why it’s no no-brainer for Salmon Arm

Glass now part of curbside collection program in the North Okanagan
While it’s not out of the realm of possibility, Salmon Arm currently has no plan to add glass to its curbside recycling collection program such as what recently rolled out in the North Okanagan. (File photo)

Adding glass to Salmon Arm’s curbside recycling program isn’t as simple as one might think.

On Dec. 1, the curbside recycling program delivered to residents of the North Okanagan expanded to include glass collection.

Grey recycling boxes were distributed to those residents for the new Recycle BC program as a way to further reduce the amount of recyclable materials going into landfills.

Glass is currently not part of Salmon Arm’s curbside recycling program; however, it can be recycled at Bill’s Bottle Depot and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s landfill.

Asked if Salmon Arm might be considering the inclusion of glass in its curbside program, city engineering assistant Jon Mills offered a detailed response by email that, in short, explains why “it is not necessarily a no-brainer decision to make.”

First off, Mills noted Recycle BC is not a direct service provided in Salmon Arm – the city does the curbside collection through a contractor and receives money from Recycle BC for doing so.

“As such, it will need be our initiative to add glass to our curbside program,” said Mills.

The reason glass and Styrofoam (as well as plastic bags and other flexible “crinkly” plastic packaging) must be taken to the local Recycle BC depots at Bill’s or the landfill, Mills explained, is because they break and cause contamination of the other recyclable materials.

Also, broken glass is a danger to the collectors and sorters.

By collecting these at the depots, they all go into their own separate “mega bags,” and then directly to end-markets, bypassing any issues caused with collection and sorting.

Mills said a common complaint is that the city doesn’t collect everything through its curbside program.

“This leads to confusion and contamination as people don’t know the rules around the materials that have to go to the depot, or can’t be bothered to collect them separately and take them to the depot.”

Read more: City debuts new recycling containers

Read more: Where do recyclables from Shuswap homes end up?

Mills added it would be ideal to be able to collect everything at the curb and eliminate these issues; however, Recycle BC will currently only fund glass collection, not the Styrofoam or soft plastics, so avid recyclers would still have to make the trip to the depot.

“Even if we were to be able to add all materials to the curbside collection, it would likely require multiple bins to keep everything separate, and there’d most likely be issues with the lightweight foam and plastic bags blowing around and littering the environment.

“There are certainly challenges with collecting these materials at the curb even though Recycle BC has end-markets for them.”

Mills said glass contamination based on last year’s recycling collection amounted to one or two per cent.

This, he explained, represents about 15 tonnes of glass, or 2.3 kilograms per household per year (roughly five Mason jars).

“I’m not sure that this quantity would warrant the logistics and cost of a curbside collection program,” offered Mills.

“Perhaps it could take the form of what we currently do for yard waste, which is to provide a bi-annual collection, as opposed to bi-weekly.”

Another consideration is emissions generated during collection.

Mills asked if people continue to go to the depots for other reasons, “do we want to add to the emissions by sending a truck out to collect glass?”

“I think if we could get to the point of eliminating people having to go to the depot, it might make sense,” said Mills, pointing out that if people put their glass refundable beverage containers into curbside bins they’d be out their deposit.

All that said, Mills said while glass collection is a topic the city may investigate, “there are several factors involved, requiring the necessary analysis regarding the need, logistics, environmental impact and cost.”

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