Halifax has found a way to get around regulations that make it illegal to put recyclables in a landfill in Nova Scotia — by sending 300 tonnes of plastics to an out-of-province dump.

The municipality's solid waste manager, Matt Keliher, said the stash of film plastics — materials such as shopping bags and plastic wrap — had been degrading at a storage facility in Halifax since August 2017, following China's announcement it would no longer be importing recyclables beginning in 2018.

Keliher said he had hoped the province would agree to temporarily waive the rules banning recyclables from the dump, so the material could be disposed of locally.

But the province took too long to decide either way, he said, forcing the city to send the material to an undisclosed location outside the province where the materials are allowed in a landfill.

In total, the city plans to ship out between 10 and 12 tractor-trailer loads of plastics, Keliher said. Three loads were sent the first week of January, he said, and the rest will be sent later in the month as space runs out at the storage facility.

The Halifax Material Recovery Facility

The Halifax Material Recovery Facility is almost at capacity following the Christmas rush. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

Undisclosed location

Keliher wouldn't say where the material is going because "we don't want other recycling operations to find our end markets and swoop in and take them."

He did say the material could be sent even further west than Ontario.

Keliher said a local landfill would have been preferable because shipping the material creates unnecessary carbon emissions, not to mention additional costs to taxpayers.

He wouldn't say what the final price tag would be, adding he will be updating city councillors with that information soon.

Keliher said GFL Environmental Inc., which runs a private landfill in West Hants, asked the province for permission to accept Halifax's recyclables this fall.

The department promised a response in the new year, he said, but "we have yet to hear back from the province on this."

In an email from Nova Scotia's Department of Environment, spokesperson Chrissy Matheson said the minister is considering the issue and "a decision will be made very soon." 

Recycling program 'still working'

Halifax's recycling program "is still working," despite China's ban, Keliher said.

The city has found new markets for its film plastics, he said. It just wasn't able to off-load those materials that had already degraded in storage.

New material coming in is being burned for fuel in a kiln. Keliher wouldn't reveal whether the kiln is in Nova Scotia or what the fuel is being used for, citing "market conditions."

"We also have options of homegrown solutions and innovation," with regards to recycling closer to home, Keliher said. "It can really spark that entrepreneurial drive in people to look at this as a positive."

With files from the CBC's Information Morning