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Rural curbside recycling pilot in Olds extended due to huge demand

A new curbside recycling pilot has been a big success in Olds, Alta.

The pilot allows residents to dump troublesome items like old paint, motor oil, tires and electronics

Workers take away a fax machine, blender and oil paint cans from a home in Olds, Alta. The curbside recycling project the town has taken part in could be rolled out in other small rural towns. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

A new curbside recycling pilot has been a big success in Olds, Alta., and could be coming to other small towns in the future.

The week-long pilot was only supposed to cover three days but ended up being extended to four. It will likely run again on Saturday to meet the demand from residents looking to take advantage of the free door-to-door service.

Residents can leave items next to their regular bins and have them taken away. It doesn't cost them or the town a penny.

As part of the pilot, Alberta Recycling provided a grant for the town to advertise the service and then had a private contractor come and do the collection.

It means items that have sat in basements and backyards — in some cases for many years — can be disposed of safely with no hassle.

Scott Chant with the Town of Olds says the recycling pilot has been a big success. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"They're picking up old car tires, batteries, paint, used motor oil and electronics door-to-door," said Scott Chant, director of operations for the town.

"We're the first to take them up on their offer, we're the first community in Alberta to do this.

Chant said this is the chance for residents to get rid of items like the paint that has been sitting in the basement for years.

"Some people don't have the means. You don't want to haul an old car battery in your car to [the] Didsbury landfill and this offers that service, for young and old alike," Chant said.

"It doesn't cost the town anything other than staff time to deal with advertising and things like that."

The idea for the pilot project was born out of COVID-19, looking at ways to deal with waste collection.

A pile of old electronics sits waiting for collection in a back alley in Olds, Alta. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We tossed around some ideas and said, 'Have we ever tried curbside?'" said Ed Gugenheimer, CEO of Alberta Recycling Management Authority.

"Let's put it out to Alberta and see if anyone would like to try and [a] curbside pickup program. And we were delighted that Olds decided to give it a whirl."

Gugenheimer said curbside pickups take away the chance of people travelling to and congregating in groups at landfills and recycling depots during the pandemic.

He said they'll look at the feedback and the numbers from Olds to see if the project could be expanded to other small rural towns.

"We're going to take all the information and come back as a team and look at the volumes, costs, what worked, what didn't and what infrastructure we need," Gugenheimer said.

He said the volumes collected this week have been "astronomical."

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