New Brunswick

Christmas aftermath results in lots more of 'everything' for recycler

The Fundy region recycling plant runs at top speed through January, its busiest month, and 'mistakes' in the piles of recyclables don't make things easier.

Fundy region recycling program shifts into highest gear after the holiday consumer rush

Fundy Recycling gets busy after the holidays

5 years ago
Fundy Recycling gets busy after the holidays 0:46

The Fundy Region recycling program is running in its highest gear now that the Christmas holidays are over.

For weeks after the holiday consumer rush, the program operates at peak volumes, with some staff working overtime to process the usual January increase in material trucked to the recycling plant.

The system, which handles more than 130 truckloads in a regular month, requires all hands on deck in January, plus a few extra runs and some overtime to keep on top of the post-holiday cleanup.

"We get a lot more plastic, cardboard, everything," says Candy Dorcas, supervisor of the cavernous material-recycling plant where it all gets dumped and sorted.

"The aftermath is twice as much."

'Mistakes' don't help

Dorcas says her team works most efficiently when people know the rules about what items are recyclable.

In less than a minute, she rounds up a bunch of "mistakes," including a sleeve of used coffee cups.

"The cups and the covers are garbage," she says.

Workers at the Fundy region recycling facility sort through material for items mistakenly put into the recycling stream. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)
She also finds a soccer ball, a child's car seat and a string of Christmas lights.

They'll have to be sent to the landfill.

Holding up a clear brittle cake container from Dairy Queen, Dorcas looks for the recycling symbol that says 1, 2 or 5. It doesn't have any symbol at all.

 "We have to stop and take it out and set it aside," she says. "It does slow us down, quite a bit. And some things are unsafe that do come in."

For example, staff are instructed not to handle black garbage bags because they can't know what's inside.

Poor etiquette at blue bins

Blue bins are available throughout the Fundy region for residents to drop off recyclable material. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)
Poor etiquette at the depot blue bins also causes extra work.

Behind the stores at Lancaster Mall, a blue bin is hoisted up to the truck, showing all the cardboard now frozen to the ground underneath.

Somebody will have to pick it up.

Employees say the cleanest material comes from the curbside programs in Rothesay and Quispamsis.

That's because pickup crews are instructed to leave the rejects behind.

"They're taking out your mistakes," says Brenda MacCallum, who handles public relations and program development for the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission.

Program started in 1999

This pile has about two weeks worth of recycling material collected at the Fundy plant. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)
MacCallum says Fundy's recycling program has taken off since it started in 1999, but it doesn't make money.

Once materials are separated and baled, they're shipped offsite at a rate of about three to four transport-trailers a week.

MacCallum says some of the cardboard goes to the Lake Utopia mill, and other paper products go to Quebec.

A broker handles most of the rest.

"In revenue, we get about $200,000 from what we sell," says MacCallum. "But operational costs are over $1 million per year."

That net cost is covered by tipping fees.

Landfill life extended to 2048

Brenda MacCallum of the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission says recycling has helped extend the life the Crane Mountain landfill by 23 years, so it now won't be capped until 2048. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)
MacCallum says the biggest local advantage to recycling is how it has extended the life of the landfill.

When the commission opened the Crane Mountain landfill site in 1997, it was expected to reach capacity by 2025. Now that's extended to 2048.

"We are pushing that date back," MacCallum says.

The landfill is now using its sixth cell out of 16.

But when the region has used all of the cells, it will need to find more space. 

"And that's going to be the massive cost," MacCallum says.

"Where do we go next?"