January 25, 2016 6:18 pm
Updated: January 26, 2016 10:27 am

Biodegradable bags not required: A break down of Toronto recycling and composting misconceptions

WATCH ABOVE: It may seem obvious, but experts say there are still a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Torontonians' recycling regime.

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TORONTO – It may seem obvious, but experts say there are still a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Torontonians’ recycling and garbage regime.

Naomi Belcamino, social enterprise manager and events coordinator at Story Planet Cafe, said the not-for-profit establishment was previously purchasing environmentally friendly take-out cups and biodegradable bags, only to find out it was all in vain.

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“We are a charity and we get our fees waved and it’s really important that we are really responsible on how we dispose of our garbage and our recycling,” Belcamino said.

“I thought the lids that we were buying were recyclable and I thought the compost bags we were using were environmentally friendly.”

According to the city’s waste-management services, black plastic is not recyclable, because equipment at the recycle facility are not able distinguish between the black conveyor belt and dark plastics.

“It comes down to the colour the white plastic lids are okay … but when we get into the darker colours of plastics, it’s the optical sorters, they try and distinguish the type of plastic and spread that off to stream we want to see it in, [the equipment] wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the belt and the [plastic],” said Annette Synowiec, acting director, Policy, Planning and Support Solid Waste Management Services.

In addition to black plastics, Belcamino learned biodegradable bags were also not required by the city.

In fact – waste collectors prefer plastic grocery bags in green bins and recycling bins.

“In terms of using the biodegradable bags in our compost stream or our green bin stream, our facilities don’t require that we use those,” said Synowiec.

“Those materials get spun up in a big mix and the top floating plastic would be scraped off, so even if you had used a biodegradable bag it would be scraped off and sent to landfills as residual.”

This came as a surprise to Belcamino.

“People definitely need to be educated about what’s going on and why they are purchasing certain things,” she said.

In 2014, the city spent approximately $4 million disposing of garbage found in the recycling bin.

For more information on how to properly sort recycling, the city recommends visit the waste wizard at http://www.Toronto.ca/recycle.

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