Residents of Lacombe, Alta. who used a blue box to recycle are now out of luck, as the city is rethinking how it handles recycling amid worldwide challenges in the sector.
The city ended curbside recycling pickup at the end of May after the contract expired for the previous waste management company.
A competitive bidding process resulted in a single bid that would have raised costs by 65 per cent while restricting accepted items. It also didn’t adequately ensure a high enough proportion of material would actually be recycled, according to city manager Matthew Goudy.
“Our council had said, ‘Well, let’s look at it instead — advancing a full review of our solid waste management practices — and see if there are some other measures that can be taken to reduce our impact,” Goudy said.
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In recent months, recycling has become more of a “feel-good” solution than an effective one, the city’s mayor, Grant Creasey, told Global News.
“I don’t think anyone — certainly not our administration nor our elected officials here in Lacombe — are opposed to genuine reuse of materials,” Creasey said.
Lacombe isn’t alone in its growing challenges with recycling. St. Albert, north of Edmonton, stopped accepting five types of packaging in November.
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In recent years, China and other Asian countries have restricted Canadian plastic exports, causing commodity prices for recyclables such as glass and plastics to slump.
“Even that, we used to be able to ship unsorted recyclable material across the ocean. Does that mean we should be?” Goudy said.
“It kind of ignores the externalities of the transportation costs and the human capital costs.”
Lacombe city officials believe other municipalities will face similar dilemmas about how to recycle as their waste management contracts come up and commodity prices remain low.
Residents, meanwhile, can take their recycling to a city-run community depot for the time being.
Lacombe plans to launch a new recycling program in 2020.