Solid waste commissions put pause on recycling during pandemic
'We don’t want our employees being potentially exposed'
Solid waste commissions across the province have sidelined recycling programs because of COVID-19.
In most places, recycling pickup has already stopped or soon will be, although residents are encouraged not to throw recyclables in with their regular trash.
On Tuesday, Fredericton Solid Waste announced it will stop sorting recycling that comes to its landfill starting April 6.
Any recyclables that do come in will go straight into the landfill.
Earlier this month, the Fundy Regional Service Commission stopped its recycling program, also saying that any recycling material received will go to the landfill "to protect our employees."
"We are asking the public to store their material if possible," the commission said.
ECO360, which handles waste collection for the southeast of the province, including Moncton, is continuing with curbside collection of waste but has told residents its composting and recycling operations are closed.
Brad Janes, a spokesperson for Fredericton Solid Waste, said the decision was made to end the recycling program out of concern for employees.
"We don't want to have employees or haulers collecting recycling that could be contaminated material," said Janes.
"We don't want our employees being potentially exposed."
Even though recycling will go to the dump, Janes encourages people to not include recycling with garbage and to sort recycling as normal.
This will help workers who otherwise would have more garbage bags to handle than is normal.
Janes said people can still use the grey and blue boxes for recycling, and that they will be picked up by a separate truck like always, but it won't be sorted and will be disposed of as regular trash.
Janes said the temporary pause on the recycling program should give people an opportunity to practise the other two 'R's', reduce and reuse.
"Now is an opportunity to really implement that in your personal lifestyle," said Janes
Lois Corbett, the executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said these are extraordinary times and understands why solid waste commissions have made this decision.
"It's a crisis born of a crisis," said Corbett.
"We have to understand that it's not business as usual in any domain … I know that the regional solid waste commissions are amongst the biggest and most important cheerleaders [of recycling]."
Corbett asks New Brunswickers to be patient, not to forget how to sort their recyclables, and to consider backyard composting.
"If you want to reduce the amount of stuff that you're sending to our landfills and do some good things for nature and for your own backyard, this is the perfect time to build that backyard compost," said Corbett.
Vicky Lutes, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Local Government, is encouraging residents who have the ability to store recyclables to do so until the programs start up again.
Corbett agreed, but recommends cleaning recycling to minimize odour and to keep animals from being attracted to storage areas.
She also warned against putting all your stored recyclables out at once when the virus threat ends, to avoid taxing the system.
With files from Shane Fowler