Saskatoon eyes banning glass bottles, jars from household blue bins

Glass bottles could soon be banned from Saskatoon's blue bin recycling program.

Report says 90% of glass bottles and jars break before being recycled

The main conveyor belt at the Loraas plant. (CBC)

Glass bottles and jars could soon be banned from Saskatoon's blue bin recycling program.

A new city report says approximately 90 per cent of glass bottles and jars people toss into their recycling bins are broken by the time they get sorted.

That means the vast majority of that glass ends up in the landfill.

"Because of the type of sorting in a single stream process where it's very automated, most of the glass gets broken and it ends up not being able to be recovered," said Amber Weckworth, Saskatoon's manager of education and environmental performance.

City officials suggest that means glass should probably be banned from the curbside program.

They say beefing up the SARCAN depots where bottles are returned for a deposit would be a better way to make sure more glass actually gets recycled. 

"SARCAN collects it in person, and they manually sort everything and can sort out the different colours of glass and keep it from being broken," said Weckworth.

Concerns raised by CBC investigation

While the numbers may be shocking, this is nothing new. Concerns about the fate of recycled glass were raised by a CBC investigation back in 2014.

In both Saskatoon and Regina, the investigation found that almost all the glass people diligently cleaned and recycled ended up in the dump. In the years since, it seems, not much has changed. 

Already, the city banned plastic film like plastic bags or wrap from the bins. But the startling numbers about how little glass is actually recycled are part of a larger, more bleak picture for the future of recycling in Saskatoon. 

The report says, by weight, glass makes up about four per cent of the recycling stream. Paper and cardboard makes up 73 per cent of all the stuff Loraas recycles. 

Global demand for cleaner recycling raising prices 

The report says major recycling buyers like China are demanding cleaner, less contaminated recycling. 

"Recycling markets are weak and the future outlook is one of uncertainty," the report said, but it's not just the demand that's hurting the market.

City officials say things like tariffs on metal and and trade disputes between China and the United States are hurting the value of recycled goods. 

Loraas's contract to provide curbside, single family home recycling bins expires on December 31, 2019.

Weckworth said it was hard to know if the exclusion of glass would make a large difference in the new contract with Loraas.

"If we go forward with signing a new contract and glass comes out of it, that may have a price difference, but it's pretty hard to speculate about that."

When that contract was signed back in 2013, the inclusion of glass was a major selling point for city councillors. 

Now, city officials are saying curbside collection program is probably not the most effective way to recycle glass.

The report says the city could spend upwards $33,400 a year to partner with SARCAN to get more depots across the city. 


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