Regular readers know that I am the de facto sixth member of the Planeteers. In the past, I’ve helped promote Kingston’s organic waste recycling program, proposed a pedestrian friendly solution for the downtown core, and echoed concerns about plastic bags and bottled water. All in all, these aren’t ground breaking feats of environmental heroism, rather they are key issues that must be addressed before Kingston can realize it’s goal of becoming Canada’s most sustainable city.
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that more of my neighbours are putting out fewer bags of garbage. Consequently, I’ve also recognized that more people are rolling their green bins out to the curb for collection. This is all very promising, but a recent mishap on recycling day made me question the effectiveness, and overall process associated with our recycling program. Our blue box was brimming with all the right stuff, and when it came time to bring it back inside, we found that it had not been emptied. We then discovered a bright orange slip of paper stating that our recycling was unserviced as a result of broken glass inside our blue box. The entire text on the delinquent slip reads as follows:
Some or all of your blue box items were not picked up today because:
- This is the wrong week for your grey box materials. Please place out next week.
- Do Not Bag blue box items. Place them loosely in your blue box and put bags in your grey box.
- Rinse clean all glass, metal and plastic containers.
- Styrofoam pieces must be no larger than 36″ x 24″ x 8″.
- #4 Plastic that is not a bottle or jar (e.g. bakery & produce containers).
- Many items including the list below are not recyclable in our program. Please place in your garbage: plastic packaging without #s; #3 or #7 plastic; toys; laundry baskets; #2 plastic pails (20 litres +); motor oil containers; light bulbs; mirrors; drinking glasses; ceramics; wire coat handers; window glass.
Please correct problems and place your box out before 6:00 am on your next blue box collection day. Place it in a visible area curbside and separate from your garbage.
Why is broken glass prohibited? Does it pose a safety hazard to the waste management worker who dumps our bins into the recycling truck? Clearly not. What happens to glass containers, which are broken in transit and during sorting? If you know anything about the process of recycling glass, bottles and jars are crushed so that they can be melted and reshaped into new containers. During my search for answers, I stumbled across an article from the Star Tribune, which suggests that a huge amount of broken multi-coloured glass is being dumped in landfills because it can’t be sold. Is this the culprit for Kingston’s broken glass ban? If so, how much broken glass is Canada’s most sustainable City diverting to the landfill?
Getting back to my story, as I am now left with a heaping pile of recycling, that will grow for two more weeks before it can go back out to the curb. Luckily I’m committed to this whole recycling thing, and I’m willing to pick a few pieces of glass out of my blue bin. But what about everyone else? I imagine there are many people who would say “the hell with it” and dump the contents of their rejected blue box into a trash bag. In the end, wouldn’t it make better sense if the City accepted broken glass, rather than risk people unsubscribing from recycling?