British Columbia

Feel a little better about eating chips: Recycle B.C. now has a recycling program for the bags

There are now 116 depots across the province that accept flexible plastic packaging such as chip bags, zip lock bags, pouches and mesh bags.

116 depots across the province now accept flexible plastic packaging such as chip bags, mesh bags, pouches

Recycle B.C. says 116 depots across the province are now accepting flexible plastic packaging, such as chip bags, which usually end up in landfills. (Chad Pawson/CBC)

The organization responsible for keeping waste out of landfills across the province has come up with a program to divert some of the hardest materials to recycle.

Recycle B.C. has launched a new program to collect chip bags, plastic pouches, zip lock bag and mesh bags used for avocados and other produce.

Allen Langdon, who is the managing director of Recycle B.C. says the pilot project makes good on a commitment to finally keep the materials out of landfills, which he says is the fastest growing type of packaging being used in Canada.

Chip bags, coffee bags, cellophane

"I think what's exciting is that it's just another example of what a North American leader British Columbia has become in recycling," he said "This type of pilot project isn't happening anywhere else in North America."

Langdon says the materials are hard to recycle because they are made up of different types of plastics, which often can't be broken apart and recycled independently.

Take chip bags for example, they're often plastic on the outside but foil on the inside.

Some people trying hard to follow a zero waste lifestyle have simply been avoiding the foods as a result

Starting June 1 though, residents can now take those items, which are described as flexible plastic packaging, to one of 116 locations.

Other examples of items now accepted are coffee bags, cellophane, and packaging for fresh pasta or deli meat.

Recycle B.C. says plastic pouch packaging, like this cat food, is becoming more popular with manufacturers because it is lighter than other packaging and can help better preserve food. (Chad Pawson/CBC)

Langdon says the materials are becoming increasingly popular for producers because they are light and can help foods inside them last longer.

Obstacles

The starting point for the program is to compile the materials that residents bring to the depots.

Some of it will be recycled, but Langdon admits that a portion won't because there isn't a way to do it yet. As part of the pilot, Recycle B.C. will conduct research and development to figure out how.

"It's the fastest growing segment, so that's why I think it's important that we start work and really engage in the research and development stage to find solutions to recycle this material," he said.

He's confident that residents will embrace the program, even though some of the depots aren't in convenient locations. For example, in Vancouver, the only location is the West Kent transfer station.

However there are four locations in Burnaby, two in New Westminster and one in Delta among others across the Lower Mainland.

In Victoria, the only location is the Hartland dump.

'Trying to improve'

The plan though is to add additional depots in September and then have all Recycle B.C. depots in the province accept the materials in January 2019.

"We're trying to improve year over year," said Langdon. 

In 2015, Recycle B.C. launched a program that collected plastic shopping bags and plastic overwrap, like what toilet paper comes in. In 2016, Recycle BC added locations for those items, including London Drugs stores.

He says that program has been successful in reducing plastic bags, which aren't used as garbage or animal waste bags, from going to landfills, but there's still room for improvement.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to clarify the Metro Vancouver locations where materials can be taken.
    Jun 02, 2018 2:35 PM PT

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