Why Calgarians won’t see Styrofoam blue bin recycling despite local innovation’s success

Scale back, Reuse and Rethink is a CBC Information collection about recycling. We’re exploring why our communities are at a turning level and exploring methods to recycle higher. You could be a part of the dialog by becoming a member of our Fb group.  

Recycled Styrofoam oozes out of a compressor.

It is a part of an progressive fleet of cell vans created by Calgary-based Styro-Go, which payments itself as the one mobile-Styrofoam recycling firm in North America.

Proprietor Robert Herritt says his firm is choosing up contracts with governments and corporations throughout North America —  together with the B.C. authorities, Metropolis of Toronto, equipment companies and even a nationwide pilot venture for Lowe’s Canada — nevertheless it’s having bother convincing the Metropolis of Calgary.

“It is fascinating the place the demand and acceptance and willingness to have interaction our service could be very excessive all over the place else besides the place we reside. So it is considered one of life’s little ironies I suppose,” he mentioned.

A Styro-Go worker masses up a compressing machine, which sits behind one of many firm’s vans in its cell fleet, on the Coast Home equipment warehouse in southeast Calgary. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

A few of the greatest demand is coming from south of the border. Herritt expects his firm will go from processing 40 tonnes a month to presumably greater than 250 tonnes this September. He says that is the equal of 27 faculty buses not going to the landfill, rising to 150 buses by September.

“It is a product that really could be recycled, and must be recycled,” he mentioned. “So there’s a better acceptance on the general public aspect to take part in recycling applications each from residential but additionally business and industrial gamers.”

Herritt says it is turn into in style to be inexperienced, particularly for giant corporations.

“That is only one extra test mark they’ll inform the general public, or their prospects, that they recycle all issues together with Styrofoam,” he mentioned.

Cellular vans

Styro-Go has patents on their progressive vans, that are made in Lethbridge. The corporate has been in operation for the final two years, however was deliberately flying beneath the radar as they get arrange, and is “actually beginning to hit their stride.” Herritt says they’ve needed to flip down requests as a result of each cell truck they personal is absolutely booked.

It began when Herritt observed bins of Styrofoam, used for residence insulation, being thrown out by development corporations.

However Herritt mentioned the problem was to make it economically possible. The cell fleet permits for that, with a compressor inside, condensing a trailer load of Styrofoam right down to the scale of a fridge in straightforward cubes for transport. 

Styro-Go finally ends up with pallets filled with compressed Styrofoam by the tip of the recycling course of, which they’ll then promote to corporations repurposing the plastic product. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

“To win corporations over we needed to nearly be similar to common waste administration [on the pricing side],” mentioned Herritt.

“By recycling their Styrofoam they’ve seen their rubbish payments go down as a result of Styrofoam truly takes up fairly a little bit of quantity.”

Blue bin issues

So why does not the Metropolis of Calgary bounce on board? The reply is price.

Town says recycling Styrofoam is costly, and solely accounts for one per cent of supplies heading to the landfill. It causes different issues too.

“We don’t settle for No. 6 foam, so please do not put these within the blue carts as a result of it’s going to break into small items and contaminate the opposite recyclables​,” mentioned Calgary’s recycling spokesperson Sharon Howland.

Typically Styrofoam could be seen piling up outdoors of Calgary’s inexperienced bin system, and the town says it is also an issue for blue bin pickup. (Submitted by Robert Herritt)

However that hasn’t stopped it from exhibiting up in blue bin pickup. Howland says Calgary accepts recycling numbers one to seven, however not six. 

“It creates a little bit of confusion,” she mentioned, including the metropolis has a web site to test merchandise if there are any doubts about what goes in a blue bin. 

Howland says the town would favor the product not be used in any respect, however says folks ought to vote with their cash and never help companies that use Styrofoam as a substitute of one thing that’s recyclable or compostable.

Provincial pickup?

She says it wants a separate pickup system, and wish to see a brand new funding mannequin from the province — or what’s referred to as an prolonged producer accountability program.

“What that does is put the monetary accountability for recycling applications onto the producers of merchandise, then they need to pay for the infrastructure to place in a drop-off depot mannequin,” mentioned Howland.

“In B.C. we see that, they’ve depots throughout the province the place they settle for such a materials, however that is as a result of it’s funded by the producers of the product.”

It is one thing the Authorities of Alberta is contemplating, in accordance with Alberta Surroundings spokesperson Scott Lundy.

However the Recycling Council of Alberta — which works with the province to promote and facilitate waste discount, recycling and useful resource conservation — does not anticipate that to occur earlier than the following election.

Govt director Christina Seidel says proper now it is robust to search out markets for different recyclables​, so many municipalities do not wish to take the extra step of including one other materials.

The City of Cochrane simply west of Calgary, nevertheless, says Styrofoam is considered one of its most constant sellers. Cochrane arrange Styrofoam recycling for his or her residents in 2009 after shopping for a compressor. They’ve to show away individuals who do not reside locally as a result of there may be a lot curiosity.

Styro-Go has even purchased compressed Styrofoam ​from the municipality previously. Cochrane’s Eco Centre takes most kinds of foam and expanded polystyrene, so long as it is clear of residue and has no tape or labels.

Way forward for Styrofoam recycling is pleasant

Herritt says Styrofoam is the place cardboard was 20 years in the past, so every part needs to be clear and sorted into separate colors earlier than it may be recycled.

Meaning soiled takeout containers — which are sometimes contaminated with meals or oils — cannot be recycles. However there are various different methods Styrofoam is used: packing materials, meat trays and even mattresses (that are presently not accepted by way of most recyclers).

It isn’t a closed-loop system the place recycled product can be turned again into Styrofoam — though Herritt says work is underway by a Canadian firm to make {that a} actuality.

The plastic product could be remade into a wide range of new gadgets, like fake brushed nickel, marble or wooden merchandise. Herritt says it could possibly helps save timber whereas being proof against mould and mildew. 

Styrofoam has a wide range of makes use of and, because it’s principally air, it takes up numerous area. (Submitted by Robert Herritt)

He says recycling the plastic product is way higher than sending it to the dump the place it’s going to by no means decompose. The Environmental Safety Company in the USA estimates roughly three per cent of Styrofoam is definitely being recycled proper now, Herrit added.

One other downside is that Styrofoam is generally air, which means it is so mild. 

“Styrofoam has a secondary air pollution worth in that as a result of it’s so mild … if it is windy, it may be picked up and journey fairly far outdoors the boundaries of the landfill,” mentioned Herritt.

Herritt says coping with Styrofoam is essential as extra folks ask their municipalities to offer them higher recycling choices.

“Over the previous few years, the cities have been actually pushing to make a distinction,” he mentioned. “Now organics could be very mainstream. Should you do not recycle organics you’re very 10 years in the past, so hopefully we’re main that development the place in 10 years time when you do not recycle Styrofoam you’re so 2018.”



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