Recycling is a global problem, not a Spruce Grove one

By Councillor Wayne Rothe

Many municipalities – including the City of Spruce Grove – have been vilified for “banning” certain materials from our recycling program. We haven’t lost interest in recycling, as some residents have charged.

I’m a recycling nazi. Virtually no piece of paper or cardboard that comes into my home and office isn’t recycled. Glass and plastic, too. Every food scrap and my yard waste all finds its way into my composting bin, which is used throughout winter.

Some recycling realities…. Just because something is recyclable doesn’t mean it can be recycled. It’s hard to admit that most recyclable plastics that have been collected over the years aren’t actually recycled. Materials have been stockpiled and, in many cases, eventually landfilled because there hasn’t been a market. Now that clamshell plastics are no longer accepted things have worsened.

Recycling is all about economics. There is no market for many of the materials we’ve collected in the past. If there is no market then why pay to collect and store stuff that no one will buy and will have to be landfilled anyway. Petrochemicals are cheaper to use as feedstock than recyclables. Clamshells use hard, clear plastics, which are costlier to recycle because they require more energy to process. Clamshell plastics have adhesive labels, which are difficult to remove and contaminate the resulting material.

Someone has suggested to me that Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland get together to build a plant to make these materials into new products. I doubt that would be feasible. The City is now taking glass at our Eco Centre to reuse in road building.

I share the frustration of residents who want to recycle and cannot, and the City is committed to being environmentally friendly. However, this is not a Spruce Grove problem; it’s a global problem, so until the economics change this is the recycling world we live in.

Meanwhile, please reduce, reuse and recycle what you can. When spring arrives please consider mulching your leaves and grass clippings.

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