Recycling at all-time high in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Consider it a good problem: Winnipeggers are recycling more than ever before, but that means growing pains when it comes to sorting all of the things people put in their blue carts.

“You are taking a facility that was designed for 30,000 tonnes and doubling the throughput on that,” said Randy Park, the supervisor of waste diversion at the City of Winnipeg.

Emterra’s facility on Henry Avenue has seen so much recycling material that workers weren’t able to sort the products effectively. That meant the amount of money the city was able to get for selling recyclables wasn’t as high as it could have been.

The facility underwent a massive expansion to allow for better sorting last year to help address the problem.

“We actually increased the sort lines, which allows a lot better sorting of the materials,” said Park. “It makes sure it is separated and sorted at a high efficiency, which then produces the highest possible grade of the material.”

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That means more money for the city.

Winnipeg earned $8.2 million by selling recyclables last year. The sale price is dictated by the market.

“They do command different prices,” said Park. “Your tetra packs are around $75 to $100 a tonne, some plastics go for $900 to $1,000 a tonne and then aluminum, which is your highest revenue-generating material, at that is usually $1,500 a tonne.”

Aluminum is one of the least commonly collected products in the city.

Of the 53,657 metric tonnes collected in 2013, aluminum beverage containers accounted for just one per cent. Around $1 million worth of cans end up in the landfill every year because Winnipeggers didn’t recycle them, city officials said.

The most commonly collected product is paper, at 69 per cent.

Winnipeggers are still throwing garbage into the blue bins, Park said.

Plastic bags are not recyclable and can actually cause problems with machinery at the facility.

Coffee cups, foam and plastic wrap also are frequently tossed in the blue bin and nothing can be done to recycle them.

The city also collects glass even though there is no market to sell. Instead of making money off of it, the glass is used as a base to build roads at the Brady Landfill.

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Every year more people are recycling and the upgrades to the current facility are only a temporary solution, city officials said.

“This footprint is just too small,” said Park. “This facility is sized so it can handle to recycling until 2019 but beyond that, it will be taxed again.”

The city will soon start the process of finding out what to do with recycling in the future, Park said.

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