May 25th, 2020

Recycling up a third with pickup

By COLLIN GALLANT on July 12, 2019.

An E360 truck deposits a blue curbside recycling bin back on the curb of a house in Ross Glen on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Officials with the city's solid waste department state that the volume of material collected increased 33 per cent during the last 12 months.

Curbside pickup has resulted in a one-third increase in recycling over the first 12 months of the program in Medicine Hat, new figures show.

Landfill administrators posed the program as a way to boost waste diversion rates that had flat-lined in Medicine Hat when council approved the project in early 2018.

They are now saying the more convenient method – home pickup for mixed materials – is paying off, even though some material is currently being stockpiled while new buyers are sought.

“People have really kicked it up a notch,” said Shane Briggs, the city’s superintendent of solid waste. ”

“We really appreciate the overwhelming response.”

Home pickup came into full city-wide operation on July 1 last year, and up to the recent June 30, a total of 3,120 tonnes of paper, plastic and tin had been collected.

That is a 777-tonne increase over the amount from the previous 12-month period, which equates to a 33 per cent increase for the year.

In late 2017, the city’s strategic Solid Waste Plan outlined the need to divert more material in order to extend the lifespan of the landfill. A blue-bin system was endorsed by a strong majority of survey respondents, and combined with other measures, the department predicted that building a new dump would be pushed off by decades. Over two years, a commercial differentiated tipping fee on sorted loads and some reworking of a landfill cell, moved the replacement date past 2050.

“It’s been a huge win for the city,” said Coun. Jamie McIntosh, who was a utility committee member when the program was initially approved and was an outspoken supporter when it arrived at council.

“A year in, we’re dealing with the fact that it’s significantly harder to move plastic, but that’s an across-Canada problem, not a Medicine Hat problem.”

Briggs told the News that residents should still be including all numbered plastics in carts in order to maintain the habit while solutions and sales markets are examined.

As expected, volumes dropped off voluntarily at the city’s four depot locations fell, though for the foreseeable future, said Briggs, all will remain open.

Those are available for apartment and condo dwellers who do not have home pickup, overflow from residences and a destination for glass (not accepted in blue carts).

According to the 2016 update to the city’s solid waste strategic plan, that year it collected about 57,000 tonnes per year of general waste from all sectors, including commercial and industrial, and the construction and demolition sectors. About 30 per cent of all waste was diverted from being buried, whereas the typical rate for a mid-sized to major city was 50 per cent.

Total garbage that year was estimated to be 700 kilograms per person.

Yard waste growth

The city’s yard waste cart program is also growing by about three per cent per year as more residents opt in to the green-bin collection program, said Briggs. As of this month, 13,346 bins were in service at residential addresses (about two out of every three single-family homes), and that includes 334 distributed this spring and summer to inquiring utility customers.

That material, comprising grass clippings, leaves, small branches and general garden material, is composted rather than buried.

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