Curbside shaming: See-through garbage bags a move to boost recycling in Mount Pearl

Starting March 1, residents of Mount Pearl will be required to use clear plastic bags for curbside garbage disposal.

Mayor Randy Simms says greater transparency will identify who's tossing what into the trash

The City of Mount Pearl will be switching to clear plastic bags for garbage disposal in March. (CBC)

It's an effort to shed a little more light on what Mount Pearl residents are doing with their garbage and whether they are recycling.  

Clear plastic bag are coming to curbsides in the city in March. Residents will be forced to make the switch March 1 for garbage, though recycling can remain in blue bags.

Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms said Wednesday that he's hoping the move will boost the city's recycling rates, which have been trickling down.

"Twenty-nine per cent of what's going out in our garbage is actually recyclable materials and we're only getting 9.5 per cent of that [diverted]," Simms told CBC Radio's On The Go. 

"So we've got to get those numbers up there if we can."

Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms says he hopes residents in his city will respond well to clear plastic bags. (CBC)

Simms said he's hopeful that the switch to see-through bags will give residents a chance to think again about what they are tossing in the trash.

It's also an opportunity for city inspectors to have a look inside the bags.

"If we see that somebody is simply ignoring the rule completely and not recycling, and not even making an effort to recycle, I think that that individual can anticipate that at some point they will be identified," Simms said.

The city's website says a warning will be issued first, then bags could be rejected and left at the curb.

Garbage containers to blame?

A few years ago, according to Simms, Mount Pearl had a recycling diversion rate of 15.5 per cent, compared to the 9.5 percent now.

Simms says some of the blame might lie with the garbage bins residents now use to hold bags on garbage day.

"You look around, and say, 'OK what has changed? Why would that happen?' And the one big thing that changed obviously is we introduced the containerized garbage cart program." 

The City of Mount Pearl uses an automated garbage collection system, which makes it hard to see what goes out in the trash. (CBC )

"It's been a huge success, it's very popular, but I think one of the unintended consequences is that we saw a reduction in the amount of recycling in the city."

When the new clear bags roll out, residents will still be allowed to use two small — grocery store size — opaque bags for private materials, although the city hasn't spelled out what is considered private.

"We're going to do [this] for 90 days," Simms said. "And if at the end of 90 days we actually see that our [recycling] rate has gone down again or hasn't improved, we'll have to try to do something else."