Nfld. & Labrador

Save it, don't toss it: Recyclers want you to practice patience during pandemic

Recycling agencies hope people keep holding on to products instead of sending them out with the garbage.

Agencies hope to limit amount of recycling sent to landfill

Residents of St. John's can now put out recycling for pickup after roughly a month of no service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

That mountain of blue bags piling up at home is gold, not garbage, according to Ever Green Recycling. 

"Saving your deposit beverage containers is like turning your shed or storage area into a convenient piggy bank," said Mike Wadden, president and CEO of the St. John's-based agency. 

Many people have been saving recyclable products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wadden said Ever Green will return the deposit paid, once it's able to reopen its doors

"By saving your recyclables for later, you're personally helping people remain employed, and you're also cutting down on material that goes into the landfill," Wadden said in a media release Tuesday. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic halted non-essential services in Newfoundland and Labrador in mid-March, Green Depots have been closed and some municipalities stopped curbside recycling. 

"Like many organizations during the pandemic, we have to focus on the safety of our own staff, and of the residents and the employees that are involved in the recycling industry," said Dana Spurrell, CEO of the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board. 

The MMSB is a Crown agency that promotes waste diversion, runs beverage and tire recycling programs, and generally helps divert waste from the landfill. 

"During all of this we're reminding individuals … to try to continue your really good recycling habits that we've developed over the past few years. We've come a long way with recycling," said Spurrell, asking people to keep rinsing, sorting, and storing recyclables until they can go to local depots or be picked up at the curb. 

MMSB CEO Dana Spurrell says people should continue to rinse used containers, even if recycling services during the COVID-19 pandemic aren't the same as usual. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Spurrell said the MMSB is also encouraging people to look at how they can reduce the waste they produce. It is also launching a new initiative called "Love Your Leftovers," which focuses on using what you have in your house. 

'Uncharted territory'

The City of St. John's started a monthly curbside recycling program this week, in place of the usual biweekly service, with no limit on the number of blue bags you can put out. 

"There's varying degrees of impact depending on the municipality and the nature of the service," said Spurrell.

For example, she said the Town of Conception Bay South is concerned about access to personal protective equipment for workers picking up recycling, and in central Newfoundland the worry is people can't practise physical distancing in the plant. 

"I think this is uncharted territory for most of us, and we'd prefer to be guilty of taking too much caution versus not having enough."

Spurrell said the company that collects and processes recycling in the province, Hebert's Recycling, is taking advantage of the downtime to do routine maintenance and repairs, and the MMSB is also "trying to be strategic" in what it can do.

"So that when we're back up and running everyone's ready to go again."

In the meantime, with "all markets down," Spurrell said she suspects markets for recycling are down, but the MMSB has a contingency it can use and she's confident things will get back to regular business.

"I don't think we're going to be unlike any organization or business that relies on revenue from certain products as we move through the stages of this pandemic," she said. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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