When it comes to recycling materials in the home, Manitobans are doing their part. Since 2010, the province’s residential recycling recovery rate has increased by 26 per cent. In 2019, the province was able to recover roughly 85 per cent of packaging and printed paper in Manitoba homes.
If Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM) has its way, those stats will continue to swell in the coming year, especially as the organization celebrates the one-year anniversary of the launch of its Recyclepedia tool. In partnership with MMSM, we take a look at what makes the Recyclepedia a one-stop shop for Manitobans trying to figure out what goes where.
Creating a more user-friendly experience
According to Sarah Wallace, the director of marketing and communications at MMSM, the Recyclepedia launch came after the organization realized the “What Can I Recycle” page was the most popular landing point on its website.
MMSM teamed up with ReCollect, a North American company that helps governments and businesses use technology to simplify and streamline the waste management process. The Recyclepedia was born in March 2020.
Six months later, in September, the MMSM team launched the free Recyclepedia app to help Manitobans have quick access to information about what is accepted in their recycling bins.
“We’ve had over 75,000 material views,” says Wallace of the successful launch, which has also seen 34,000 user sessions and 2,400 mobile app downloads to date. “We’ve decreased our phone inquiries by 42 per cent, and we decreased incoming emails by 40 per cent. So we’ve really been able to reach a lot of people.”
Reaching all Canadians to reduce contamination
The Recyclepedia is currently available in 13 languages, including Czech, German, Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Vietnamese and simplified Chinese, and MMSM plans to add Indigenous languages in the future.
Wallace says it’s important for all Manitobans to understand which materials are accepted for recycling and which are not, adding that often there’s confusion between packaging and products.
“Items like toys, or laundry baskets, or broken plastic, patio furniture, those are all items that people automatically assume because they’re plastic they can go in the blue box,” she explains. “But they’re actually a product, so they can’t.”
The Recyclepedia will let consumers know which products can be taken to a depot for proper recycling, adds Karen Melnychuk, executive director, MMSM. “Everything has its place.”
Contamination of recyclable materials is also a concern, according to Wallace. Leftover food and liquids, for example, can contaminate and decrease the value of paper and cardboard packaging, potentially making them worthless. Improper recycling of items like plastic film can also damage the equipment at recycling sorting facilities and cause delays, while items like batteries have the potential to start a fire.
“We have to ensure that what we’re putting in the blue box is on the accepted list of materials to ensure that everything is being recovered and recycled,” she says.
READ MORE: Where does Winnipeg’s recycling end up?
More improvements in the future
If users are unable to find the material they’re looking for in the Recyclepedia database, they can suggest items to add to the tool. Wallace says material suggestions from users are reviewed weekly, as part of the team’s efforts to make the service easy to use and reliable. In the meantime, Manitobans can still call or email SimplyRecycle, the consumer-facing arm of MMSM, to find out where their item goes.
“Having all of the materials in one place, sort of as a one-stop shop, makes things so much easier,” Wallace says. “It’s a nice way to simplify the recycling process for many residents. New questions always arise, and new materials are popping up. We’re always adding to our list of accepted materials, and updates will be made to the Recyclepedia as we go.”