Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Regional Municipality still clinging to plastic 3 years after recycling shift

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is holding on to a large stash of plastic film after a major shift in recycling a few years ago. Several hundred bales of the material, enough to fill 300 pickup trucks, remains stored inside a facility in Sydport.

Stockpile of plastic film enough to fill 300 pickup trucks

Cape Breton Regional Municipality still has roughly 300 tonnes of plastic film in storage. There has been little interest in the stockpile since the Chinese government stopped accepting the recyclables in 2018. (Submitted by CBRM)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is holding on to a large stash of plastic film after a major shift in recycling a few years ago. 

Several hundred bales of the material, enough to fill 300 pickup trucks, remains stored inside a facility in Sydport.

CBRM solid waste manager Francis Campbell said they've been able to unload some of the thin plastic film, but more keeps coming in weekly garbage collections. 

Finding a home for the material is another challenge. 

"That's been the issue over the last few years, that the markets have really dried up," Campbell said.

"We've been trying to search out places and find people that are willing to take the material. It's been a hit or miss over the last couple of years."

Recycling conundrum

Campbell said North America must begin developing its own market for recycling materials.

Three years ago, Campbell said CBRM and other municipalities were left in a lurch. After decades of sending material to China to be recycled into new material, the government decided it would begin relying on its own market. 

"It's been a real struggle," he said.

Plastic bags are shown inside a bunker. (Submitted by CBRM )

In some instances, plastics — such as shopping bags and food wrap — are made into lumber. 

But in CBRM's experience, demands for recycled plastic film have been few and far between. 

Bag ban changes 

In order to recycle the plastic into new materials, Campbell said municipalities must store collections inside to avoid contamination. 

"Luckily, we've been able to do that," he said. 

"At the end of the day, if we do run out of space to store the material we would have to dispose of it. We don't want to do that."

Campbell said he hopes less waste will appear in CBRM recycling, as the province implemented a plastic bag ban in October. 

But so far, he said, that has not been the case.

In order to bury the plastic, CBRM would need special permission from the province's Department of Environment. 

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