(Advocate file photo).

Red Deer avoids recycling crunch, while Lacombe cancels blue-box pickup due to rising costs

A glut of recyclables is creating problems for many municipalities

As Canadian recyclables are banned from developing countries, many Alberta communities are facing their own garbage woes.

The City of Lacombe is the latest to be hit with cost increases. Instead of paying 66 per cent more for recycling pick up, council opted to cancel curbside recycling collection as of June 1.

Up to now, most companies contracted to pick up municipal recyclable plastics and paper have been able to sell these materials to recycling firms.

The revenue gained has been offsetting collection and sorting costs for cities and towns. But since China, India and Malaysia have banned recyling imports, sending shipments back to Canada and the U.S., there’s a glut of available waste materials, beyond what North American recyling firms can handle.

This means some recycling collection companies are having to pay to landfill some of these unwanted plastics — and this is driving up their collection costs.

Lacombe only received one bid for its last recycling contract. And that company wanted to reduce the kinds of plastics being collected, while significantly increasing pick up costs for local households.

“I want people to appreciate the fact that council is not turning its back on recycling,” but will look for other opportunities, said Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey.

Meanwhile, Lacombe residents are being asked to drop off accepted recyclable items at the Wolf Creek Recycle Site, 5214 Wolf Creek Dr.

Although Calgary and Edmonton are also facing garbage troubles — including the City of Calgary having to pay to stockpile clam-shell containers until a recycler can be found — Red Deer is so far, managing to avoid this crunch.

The city’s waste management superintendent, Janet Whitesell, attributes this to the City of Red Deer contracting with one of North America’s largest recycling collection companies, which handles pick up for about 5,000 municipalities.

With economies of scale on its side, the company has a lot of clout with North American recyclers, said Whitesell, who believes Red Deer’s waste materials are not having to be sent overseas, but are being processed on this continent.

However, the global situation is still taking a toll on the revenues the city has been receiving for its recycling.

Whitesell said the city had been collecting about $24,000 a month in early 2018 for the sale of city blue box contents. By the end of the year, that revenue dropped to under $10,000 a month.

Whitesell hopes this picks up eventually. But since this revenue only offsets about 10 per cent of the total cost of Red Deer’s recyclables collection program (the rest is covered by monthly household or commercial waste collection bills), it’s not a huge deal, she added.

“Prices often fluctuate.”

Whitesell said people often have the misconception that a program that does good, “or is the right thing to do,” should be free. But there’s a cost to everything, and some municipalities — including Lacombe — are struggling to balance the rising cost of recycling against other priorities.


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