By Ken Waddell
Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.
Recycling is a sacred cow that we should butcher and enjoy on the barbecue.
Let recycling totally go private and when people can find a market for glass, aluminium, paper, cardboard etc., God bless them all.
Even with the “new” system in Neepawa, it’s a lost cause. The new wheeled carts may do a good job for garbage, other than for some people whose property doesn’t lend itself easily to wheeling carts around. I sincerely doubt the system will work for recycling. Nobody is going to be able to sort this crap at the landfill or at another location, let’s face it. Whether you put out dumpsters, clear plastic bags or rolling carts, it doesn’t matter. Accidentally or by ignorance, contamination is going to take place. If recycling doesn’t get contaminated in the household or at the curbside, it will get contaminated in the compacter truck. Think about it, folks! To make the trips to the dump pay, the contractor has to use a compacter truck. In other words, a garbage truck. So if there is any squishy, icky stuff in one container of recycling, it will be in them all by the time it goes through the truck. Hence, contaminated recyclable material is downgraded to garbage and goes in the landfill.
What should happen is that garbage be picked up, as it is now, and taken to the landfill. It can be dumped out on the sorting floor and if there are obviously clean, recyclable things that have survived the crusher truck, so be it.
The recyclables should be sorted at the source (home or business) into clear plastic bags to hold paper, aluminum cans, steel cans, plastic bottles, whatever. A separate compartment truck should be used and some sorting done at the curb side. If the recycling isn’t sorted at curb side, then it can go in a “mixed” bin on the truck. There is a market for office paper, newsprint, cardboard, metal “washed” cans, aluminium drink cans and, of course, beer cans are worth 10 cents each. There is little, if any, market for plastics and they, being oil based, should be burned with the garbage in a clean burn furnace. Even if the clean burn furnace was only used to capture heat in the winter for the landfill buildings, it would be better than burying all this crap. In countries that are way more progressive than we are, the garbage is burned to make heat, to convert water to steam, to run a turbine, to make electricity so you heat or cool as the season dictates.
And speaking of beer cans, many of them find their way back to the market because of the 10 cent levy. Some people take back their empties. Some people scavenge them right out of the recycling bins. Sometimes, the recycling/garbage staff gather them and landfill staff will set them aside and turn them in for a little extra cash. It’s called the free market and it works. Recycling of aluminium cans would skyrocket if there was a 10 cent levy on all aluminium beverage cans, not just beer cans.
Recycling, as it is now structured, is fake, contrived and complicated. We need to get the government, be it municipal or provincial, out of the business, except to set regulations. Placing a levy on containers is fine. Paper and cardboard don’t need a levy, there is already a market for those products. Most households or businesses will give it away to gatherers who can accumulate it into viable bales or loads in order to get it to market.
The current efforts by communities and municipalities is admirable and well-intentioned. The most recent effort by Neepawa council and staff is also admirable and well-intentioned. The problem is garbage and recycling will continue to be a drain on our communities and our tax dollars because it isn’t done in a comprehensive and holistic manner. Groups like Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) and Manitoba Community Newspapers Association (MCNA) and others have tried to reason with the province on this complex issue, but with little effect. It’s sad, really, when we can apply the highest levels of technology in some sectors, but in something as simple as garbage and recycling, we make huge stumbling blocks for ourselves.
The province must seriously sit down with AMM and figure this issue out. Without a comprehensive program, we will still be wasting time, money and materials for decades to come. Simple solutions can and should be applied.