No place for banned bottles in blue bins, recyclers say
BY PAUL JAY — Polycarbonate bottles thrown into blue bins will likely end up in landfills, because municipalities say they aren't set up to handle the material.
Several observers provided that grim assessment after the federal government announced on Friday its plan to ban the importation and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing bisphenol A (BPA), a controversial chemical found in hard-plastic bottles and other products.
The government's move comes in response to studies that have linked the chemical to breast and ovarian cancer cell growth and the growth of some prostate cancer cells in animals.
Retailers in Canada have responded in advance of the government decision by removing the baby products from their shelves. Some retailers are also pulling other products known to contain BPA, such as water bottles.
But consumers looking to dispose of their products won't be able to recycle them in most municipalities, said Joanne St. Goddard, the executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario.
"Here's one of those perfect examples of why we as consumers need to question these products before they get in the market," she told CBC News. "Now consumers have no choice but to throw the bottles in the disposal stream."
John Baldry, the processing operations supervisor with the city of Toronto's solid waste management services, confirmed that Toronto, as with many municipalities, will not be accepting for recycling the polycarbonate materials — one of a number of polymers marked on the bottom with the recycle number "7," a catch-all category for unusual plastic products.
Baldry said he expects many consumers will dump the bottles in blue bins anyway, but he said if they do, they will likely end up in the landfill.
"These are not part of the city of Toronto recycling program," he said. "I would advise people to dispose of them with their other garbage."
Baldry said the issue is cost; in order for municipalities to find a market for the plastic in question, there would have to be enough of a volume coming into blue bins to make it worthwhile. But because most polycarbonates were built for long life and reuse, they are not often recycled.
Vancouver also doesn't accept polycarbonates, said Chris Underwood, the manager of solid waste management for the city. He said even those municipalities that do accept polycarbonates often do so out of simplicity to their customers, he said. These plastics would still be separated out from other materials by the recycling plant, he said.
Cassandara Polyzou, the program co-ordinator for toxics with the environmental group Environmental Defence, said the products should be recycled and not put in a landfill with other garbage, because studies in Europe have shown that chemicals could potentially leach into groundwater.
Both Baldry and Underwood, however, said polycarbonates are not considered by Environment Canada as hazardous materials for the purposes of landfills.
While Underwood acknowledged that consumers could dispose of the bottles in their garbage, he said it's a job that industry is more suited to deal with.
Retailers such as Wal-Mart Canada, Canadian Tire, Hudson's Bay Co. and Home Depot Canada who have removed the product from their shelves are now facing the question of what to do with their backlog of removed products.
Hudson Bay's Co. spokesperson Hillary Marshall said her company was working with vendors and manufacturers to determine what to do with the products they have removed. She also said the company was looking into taking some of the products back at the store level.
Likewise, Home Depot Canada spokesperson Dina Vieira said her company was working with vendors to take back the products, with the likely result that they would be recycled.
Chuck Burke, whose Mississauga-based company GTA Environmental Solutions deals with plastic recycling, said he thinks there is a market for polycarbonates because the material can be used safely for a number of non-food products, including lenses, flashlights or as a coating for compact discs.
Canadian Plastics Industry Association spokesperson Roberta Jones said there was at least one company in Canada she was aware of that dealt with polycarbonates.