Where DOES our recycled material go?
Check out this video to find out what happens to your recyclables!
Positioning ourselves differently
The City of Lethbridge talked extensively with other cities who implemented curbside recycling earlier, to learn from their experiences and build a program that will be sustainable for Lethbridge. The City of Lethbridge is positioned much better than many other communities to manage the changes in the recycling industry. The benefit of starting a new curbside recycling program is that we have been able to watch what's happening and make decisions on what we collect in our blue carts based on that information.
We have heard concerns from residents that we aren't accepting everything in the blue cart and that they will still need to take trips to the recycling stations. Glass, plastic film and plastic bags are not accepted in blue carts. These materials are considered the top three contaminants of recyclable materials. Many cities are now changing their programs to remove these items from their blue cart collections that are problematic in the sorting, processing and marketing of their recyclables.
Currently cardboard represents over 55% of the materials recycled, markets for cardboard are in North America, and current prices are favorable to encourage the recycling of this material.
Plastics represent 10-15% of the materials and currently are being recycled in local markets. We have used some of the recycled plastic in plastic lumber materials in parking lots and parks across the city. Research and new opportunities are currently being explored in North America to increase the recycling opportunities for plastics.
Glass recovered at the recycling stations will be used in different city projects, including as a base for City pathways.
Phase 1 of curbside recycling had a contamination rate of less than 14%. We continue to focus on educating residents to only put clean, accepted material in their blue cart to maintain a low contamination rate. We have, and will continue to share information and create face-to-face interactions with our residents to help them understand the importance of recycling right. This includes a wide range of marketing, communication and outreach activities.
As part of the City's contracts to market the materials to recyclers, we require quarterly reports from the broker including end market performance, assessment of market continuity, percentage of materials not suitable or that were disposed of, utilization of environmentally responsible end markets, etc. This allows us to ensure that all our cardboard, paper, metals and plastics are being recycled properly.