Jan. 8, 2019
by Colin Smith
The New Year has brought changes to the way Morinville residents recycle, as a result of developments across the Pacific.
Glass bottles and jars are no longer accepted or collected in the Blue Bag or recycling bins, as of January 1.
Other items that cannot go in the bins are styrofoam, clamshell containers, “to-go” coffee cups, most plastics except for some rigid containers with lids.
The changes were decided on by Morinville Town Council when it passed the Waste Management Rate Bylaw in November. That followed a similar move by St. Albert City Council.
The move reflects the fact that the market for recyclables has dropped off, due to decisions made in China – which makes up a major part of that market – and so their collection is uneconomical.
“The National Sword in China has imposed strict restrictions on scrap paper and plastic imports,” explained Donald Fairweather, Operations Manager for Town of Morinville Public Works.
“This has had a significant impact on North American access to recycling markets. Municipalities’ markets and pricing for recyclable materials have also been impacted by new, and currently unattainable, quality standards.”
Fairweather said residents have to dispose of unrecyclable items in their waste carts or at a recycling facility, noting that the Mike Mitchell Recycling Depot in St. Albert does accept glass. Film plastics, including plastic store bags, can be disposed of at Sobeys stores.
The National Sword was a policy implemented by the Chinese government in early 2017 to regulate solid wastes to be used as raw materials, banning certain plastic, paper and other types and setting much stricter limits on contamination for what is allowed in – increasing from 90-95 per cent purity to 99.5 per cent.
The stated intent of the policy was to improve China’s air quality, reduce pollution from “dirty or even hazardous wastes” and prevent illegal waste smuggling.
In July, China will also begin restricting imports of scrap steel, aluminum and copper, according to a statement released by the country’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment on January 4.
Some observers believe that in the longer term Chinese import restrictions may also lead to increased innovation through the use of sorter technology to reduce contamination and by the reinvigoration of domestic sorting and recycling.
Another approach to more restricted markets for recycled items is the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR), which implies that the producer of a product is responsible for it through the post-consumer stage of its life cycle.
The goal, adopted by many Canadian provinces, is to move the responsibilities and costs of recycling from consumers and municipalities to producers. This creates an increased incentive for producers to manufacture goods to create products that are readily reusable or recyclable and to reduce product and packaging waste.
Town Council endorsed the concept at its October 23 meeting, passing a motion to advocate for extended producer responsibility in the upcoming year.
At Council’s direction Mayor Barry Turner has sent a letter to Shannon Phillips, Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks.
“We are convinced that Extended Producer Responsibility initiatives can provide opportunities to shift the expenditures and if municipalities choose, the operational responsibility for recycling, collection, processing and materials marketing on to the producer, potentially resulting in significant cost reductions to municipalities,” the letter states.
“In a time when the Province is looking at ways of diversifying our provincial economy, we also believe EPR will support the creation of sustainable jobs, reduce waste management costs for municipalities and tax payers, reduce Green House Gas emissions, and increase social awareness of recycling and consumption of consumer products.”
The letter supports the development and implementation of EPR legislation by the provincial government, in collaboration with municipalities and business.
The Roseridge Regional Landfill, the destination for Morinville’s non-recyclable waste, also has a role to play.
Located east of the Town of Morinville, the site is operated by the Roseridge Waste Management Services Commission, a partnership of six municipalities: Sturgeon County, the Town of Redwater, the Town of Legal, the Town of Gibbons, the Town of Morinville and the Town of Bon Accord.
Roseridge currently accepts a variety of items on a recyclable basis, including glass jars and bottles and mattresses, and options for plastic and styrofoam are being examined. There is also a “take it or leave it” area.
“There are significant changes coming to our recycling systems, and some regions are moving faster than others,” said Roseridge Manager Gerard Duffy. “We will continue as we have, as some areas will still continue to need support through these process changes.”
Duffy noted there has been a discussion of Roseridge Waste Management Services Commission preparing a business case on curbside collection.
“Minimizing waste and reducing airspace [volume] at our landfill is something both board and management are dedicated to,” said Stephen Dafoe, Chair of the Roseridge commission, and Morinville’s representative on it.
“We are always looking for opportunities to be innovative and creative on this front for the six municipalities we serve and encourage management to find us opportunities to consider. We are starting some detailed strategic planning for the commission in February, and I am certain this topic will be towards the top of the list.”
Below is the Town of Morinville’s current list of acceptable and unacceptable items.