COVID concerns lead to blue bags being dumped at landfill in central Newfoundland

Central Newfoundland's processing plant for recyclables has been shut down since employees refused to go to work last Monday over reportedly unsafe working conditions.

Employees refused to report to work over reportedly unsafe conditions

Recycling bags will end up in the landfill in central Newfoundland if they are set out at the curb. The facility in Norris Arm is closed due to safety concerns. (CBC)

Central Newfoundland's processing plant for recyclables has been shut down since most employees refused to go to work last Monday over reportedly unsafe working conditions.

Central Newfoundland Waste Management has now stopped taking blue bags at the facility since it is beyond full.

"Right now the tip floor is full and there's no room to put any more blue bags," said CNWM chief administrative officer Ed Evans.

All recycling bags put curbside in central Newfoundland will now end up in a landfill. Evans said he hopes people hang onto them in storage while they work through a plan to get the facility up and running in the next two or three weeks.

"We would certainly encourage them to do that because obviously we all want to do the right thing," Evans said.

Evans said CNWM has tried to use off-site storage facilities before, but the recyclable material ended up contaminated and had to be dumped in the landfill. They've also tried to compact the materials to allow for more storage in Norris Arm, but too much compaction makes the materials impossible to process and then they have to be dumped.

Too close for comfort

The work at the plant is done in what Evans described as "work cabins," or small individual buildings where materials are sorted and compiled. CNWM has a company contracted to staff these work cabins.

Evans said the nature of the work makes it difficult for physical distancing measures to be enforced.

"They are physically too close together," Evans said.

Ed Evans, chief administrative officer of Central Newfoundland Waste Management, says he hopes to have operations running again within three weeks. (CBC)

CNWM is developing and implementing a plan to make it safer to work there during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he hopes they can resume operations within the next three weeks.

He hopes the workers will see the measures the company has taken and feel safe coming back to the job after they are contacted by the contractor.

"There will be discussions ongoing with their employees shortly, just to let them know what the plan will be and to encourage them to get some confidence to return to the working force."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning