Windsor

Separate and don't contaminate, says Essex Windsor recycling plant

Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority is auditing recycling trucks throughout the month of August to see what items people are not recycling properly. Come 2019 they may leave recycling boxes full if residents are not recycling properly.

'Our plant wasn't designed to manage pots and pans and high chairs and propane tanks,' says waste authority

The goal is to reach less than one per cent contamination in the bales, says Heather Taylor, waste diversion coordinator for Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Soon if you don't recycle correctly, the blue box will be left behind — full.

Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority is auditing recycling trucks throughout the month of August to see what items people are not recycling properly.

The push for stricter rules came from China and it trickled down to Canadian markets, said Anne-Marie Albidone, manager of environmental services with the City of Windsor. 

During August there will be visual audits of what people are recycling incorrectly. 

Here is a list of some of the most common errors:

  • Recycling plastic toys.
  • Attempting to recycle metal and Styrofoam.
  • Putting paper in the blue bin or putting plastic in the red bin.
  • Recycling items like jars that are half full with food.
  • Recycling the wrong items,
    • Such as small green propane tanks, hangers, lawn chairs, laundry baskets, high chairs, mats, pillows, textiles, clothing, coffee makers, computers, wiring, hoses, extension cords, batteries, wood, needles and plastic bags.

Albidone said having a bit of food residue or pizza grease in a box isn't a big deal, but it's important to place items in the correct bin.

This bin holds metal items people attempted to recycle. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"What we do at the recycling centre is we actually separate it so each plastic gets separated by the type of plastic it is and then we sell those bales," she said. "We then take that to another market that is going to transform that into something else."

Sorting recyclables

There are two people who work at the pre-sort. They stand on either side of a fast-moving conveyor​ and they have to pick out items that are not supposed to be there.

There are two people who work at the pre-sort at the recycling plant. They stand on either side of a fast moving conveyer and have to pick out items that are not supposed to be there. 0:40

There are two recycling plants: one for containers, the other for fibre. Recycled paper from the plant is sold to a producer that turns it into egg cartons.

When people don't sort out their plastics and their paper, it means the bales they create are often contaminated, said Heather Taylor, waste diversion coordinator for Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority. 

"When they're opening up bales, they're supposed to be filled with newspaper and it has to work its way through their processing and their equipment," she said. "Again, just like us, our plant wasn't designed to manage pots and pans and high chairs and propane tanks."

Their goal is to reach less than one per cent contamination in the bales.

A bale of what is supposed to be paper products, but has plastic items and a tennis ball inside. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Collecting the data

Taylor is part of the auditing process.

When trucks come in she said, "we do a very quick visual audit of what's being dropped on the tip floor in our recycling plants, and that let's us know what the issues are and where we can steer our education campaign."

After August, the waste authority will go through their data. In the new year, they'll have a new education campaign.

Much like the hard-sided containers, when the waste authority feels that it's done a good job with the education campaign, they will start leaving things behind.

And at that point, residents can call 311 to find out why their recycling was not picked up.

The city already has YouTube videos about what can be recycled, as well as an app called Recycle Coach.

Taylor said making sure everything runs smoothly depends on a lot on the people who recycle.

"It's such a big factor to the program, that we just need people to do it, to help us."

About the Author

Stacey Janzer was born and raised in Essex County. Self-described Canadian treasure. She currently works as a video journalist at CBC Windsor. Email her at Stacey.Janzer@cbc.ca.

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