November 1, 2018 6:45 pm
Updated: November 1, 2018 8:21 pm

1st phase of Lethbridge curbside recycling collects 34,000 kg of recyclable material

WATCH: Phase 1 of Lethbridge's curbside recycling project is starting to show residents what they can expect when the program is fully rolled out. Matt Battochio reports.

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It took years of thought and discussion among Lethbridge city councillors to officially implement, but Phase 1 of curbside recycling is now well underway in the city. A pilot project, which started in April, is starting to show results of what residents can expect when the program is fully rolled out.

READ MORE: Lethbridge’s curbside recycling pilot spurs feedback from city residents

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City of Lethbridge Waste and Recycling general manager Joel Sanchez tells Global News 34,000 kilograms of recyclable materials were collected in the first five months of the pilot project.

He’s also seen strong engagement from the community.

“The participation for the 900 households has been around 74 per cent,” Sanchez said. “We’ve also performed some curbside audits where we had people go to the bins and check out what material was inside. We did an audit for 280 bins and out of the 280 we only tagged 11 bins (for improper material), which is a really good number.”

The city is currently accepting paper, cardboard, certain plastics, metal and aluminum cans and beverage containers in blue bins.

On Thursday, Global News spoked with one resident involved in the pilot project. Kyle Harmon said he is pleased with how it’s going overall, but would like to see more products accepted.

“One thing that could improve is the items that we put in the recycling,” Harmon said. “Currently you can’t put in plastic bags or Styrofoam. So it would be nice if there was the facilities and infrastructure to make that happen as well.”

Another blue bin participant is happy to see Lethbridge take this step.

“I think it’s a great idea and I think it’s long overdue,” George Fowler said. “I like the convenience of having one bin. I think the city guidelines are pretty clear… I think it’s fantastic. I can’t believe it’s taken Lethbridge this long to recycle.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge residents split on curbside recycling

The city says on an annual basis the average person in Lethbridge produces around 1,000 kilograms of waste and the city’s Waste Management Facility sees more than 100,000 tonnes of it come in every year.

Current city estimates have the landfill lasting around 40 to 50 years, but they believe curbside recycling will significantly prolong its lifespan.

“If we remove the recyclables at this point, that will be 25 per cent less materials going to the landfill,” Sanchez said. “Which again will give you roughly – if we do quick math – will be 25 per cent more lifespan for the landfill.”

Sanchez says a Material Recovery Facility for sorting recyclables at the Waste and Recycling Centre will be completed by January 2019 and curbside recycling will be rolled out in full capacity in spring 2019. When that happens, he believes Lethbridge will see environmental and financial benefits.

“You generate less greenhouse gasses and you also extend the life of the landfill, which means you don’t need to do capital improvements, you don’t need to build new cells,” Sanchez said. “Which is a big portion of the budget that we have when we’re working at the landfill. Every time you build a new cell, you’re talking about a probably $1.2 to $1.8 million. So it’s cost savings at the end of the day.”

Sanchez says the city’s next step in its waste diversion strategy will be organic disposal, which he estimates will remove 45 per cent of material from household garbage bins.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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