Bales of plastic are packaged before they are processed into plastic pellets at the Merlin Plastics processing facility in the Lower Mainland. (Recycling BC photo)

Where do recyclables from Shuswap homes end up?

Recent reports of Canadian garbage dumped overseas raises question of where local materials go

Oceans turned into rolling, floating seas of plastic. Young children in poor countries scrambling through mountains of dirty plastic to find something valuable. Most recently, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte demanding Canada pick up garbage that was reportedly sent by a Canadian company in 2014 to Manila that still sits there.

These realities raise the question, when people in Salmon Arm and the Shuswap dutifully deal with their recyclables, where do they end up?

Recycling is divided into four categories: residential, commercial, institutional and industrial.

The general message from those people involved in residential recycling in B.C. is, in this province, you can rest easy.

Five years ago, Recycle BC took over residential recycling. Under the old system, municipalities collected the materials and had to find a market for them on the world stage. Now it’s a provincial system, unlike what’s done in other parts of Canada.

“In British Columbia, it’s one agency… They can control the system, and understand the opportunities for recycling,” says Brock Macdonald, CEO of the Recycling Council of BC. “In Ontario, it’s a really big challenge when you have one that’s patchwork.”

Macdonald notes if a ship leaves from the Port of Vancouver carrying recyclables, those contents are not necessarily from B.C.

Read more: Curbside waste, recycling collection considered for South Shuswap

Read more: Salmon Arm landfill accepts used oil and anti-freeze for recycling

Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, defers to Recycle BC for information about end markets.

“What I do know is that the city collects the recycling and brings it to the CSRD (Columbia Shuswap Regional District) transfer station at the Salmon Arm landfill, from there it is picked up by Cascades Recovery Inc (who work under a Recycle BC contract), they sort the materials and from there it is shipped to end markets for processing,” says Niewenhuizen.

• A check with Recycle BC’s Dave Lefebvre reveals that any plastic that would go into a blue bin goes to a processing facility in the Lower Mainland, Merlin Plastics, which turns it into pellets. The pellets are sold and can be processed into new packaging or other products that can be sold to any company in the world.

“Other materials do get shipped to other end markets, but the plastics are remaining entirely here (in B.C.),” Lefebvre says.

• Residential paper will go overseas, to the U.S. or remains in B.C. to be made into products including egg cartons and boxes. Market locations for paper used in 2019 by Recycling BC are: India, Indonesia, Canada, USA, Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan.

• Glass goes to Abbotsford to be processed into new bottles and to Quesnel to become sandblast materials, which smooth or polish rough surfaces. Encorp Pacific, not Recycle BC, handles the bottle deposit system.

• Metal containers are sold to markets in B.C., Ontario and the U.S., to be recycled into new packaging such as aluminum cans, or sheet metal for automotive manufacturing.

Lefebvre says the companies putting the packaging into the marketplace fund the collection and marketing of those materials. For instance, he says, “a soup company that uses a tin can or plastic can, would be one of the obligated parties.”

Read more: Residents to receive three-pack of bins for composting, recycling

Read more: CSRD wants commercial paper and packaging accepted for recycling

Read more: Asbestos concerns stop recycling of drywall

Both Lebebvre and Ben Van Nostrand, team leader of Environmental Health with the CSRD, stress the importance of residents recycling only the right materials. Putting in what isn’t accepted at curbside is considered contamination and can disqualify loads from being processed.

“We do have end markets here in British Columbia for our material so we want people to continue to recycle…,” emphasizes Lefebvre. “We want people, though, to make sure whatever they put in the bin is good quality. And we want people to be aware which materials can recycle.”

The City of Salmon Arm website provides information on what can be recycled curbside and what can’t. As well, a free recycle coach app for your phone includes information and schedules on the recycling program.

Come July 1, the city will begin its curbside composting program as well as providing blue recycling bins to replace the blue or clear plastic bags now used.

Brock Macdonald of the Recycling Council believes reusing and repairing is the answer, so there is no end to product life.

“When you have waste, what you have is a design flaw.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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The Merlin Plastics processing facility in the Lower Mainland turns residential plastics from B.C. into plastic pellets to be sold for other uses. (Recycling BC photo)

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