Residents struggle with correct materials in recycling carts

By Jessie Weisner
October 12, 2018 - 5:19pm Updated: October 12, 2018 - 7:52pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB - Blue curbside recycling carts were introduced in Medicine Hat five months ago, making them routine for most residents.

However, the use of the carts is still unclear for some households, who repeatedly use them for the wrong reasons.

“Please be careful to not put any contamination or garbage materials in the blue carts,” says Brian Murphy, general manager for environmental utilities. “That's really important.”

CAN-PAK handles all of the recycling materials in Medicine Hat, and when they pick up contaminated loads, it can do more than just waste time.

“When we have broken pieces of glass, grass clippings and dirt, those fall into another stream, into our paper stream,” says Randy Wong, manager of CAN-PAK. “So my paper load is getting contaminated, and it devalues the load basically.”

Wong says the biggest issue is glass, because it can pose major health risks to employees handling the material.

CANPAK sorts through about 70 tons of waste per week, picked up from roughly 23,000 households across the city.

Although issues are still present with materials, the program has been an overall success.

The city has seen a 47 per cent increase in the amount of recyclable material collected compared to this time last year, saving energy in the process.

For example, products made from recycled cardboard use a quarter of the energy and create half of the pollution compared to making them from new materials.

The City and CANPAK have been working together since the program launched to educate residents on what materials are accepted... and it has worked in one area so far.

“We've seen a decrease in styrofoam, that was one of the things we targeted early,” says Wong. “We don't see much in our loads anymore so that's been really positive.”

However, now they're getting a little more hands on, sending more personal messages when a mistake is made.

“So right now presently we've got stickers that we're putting on the bins and so when it's contaminated, we'll put a sticker on saying why it's contaminated.”

Wong adds that the longer the program is in a city, the better results they see with sorting materials.

In addition to putting correct materials in the bin, Wong says putting empty bins away is important.

“To help us out and help the city guys out with dumping the bins, once it’s emptied on your collection date, move it back to your property so that we don't have to waste the time to pick up an empty bin.”

In the meantime, a list of all recyclables is available on the city’s website, along with any information you need to know.

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