The most frequently asked question that staff at the various recycling facilities/stations in the Alberni Valley hear is “Where is our recycling actually going?”
Port Alberni’s curbside recycling, 3rd Ave. Recycling Depot and the Alberni Valley Landfill Recycling Station are all participants in the Recycle BC program. The lifecycle of your recycling is as follows:
- You ensure your recycling is rinsed and free of contaminants and place in your curbside bin.
- Recyclables are picked up and taken to a receiving facility in Nanaimo where they’re consolidated with other recyclables from the island and then sent to a Material Recovery Facility (nicknamed Murf) in the Lower Mainland.
- This facility mechanically sorts material using a series of conveyor belts, magnets, eddy currents (for aluminum), and optical sorters to sort hard plastic, metal, paper, and cardboard. Murf still requires human pickers (they can pick up to 150 inappropriate items a minute off the conveyor belt) to ensure that no contaminated items go through the sorter. Items such as soft plastics get caught up in the screens, belts and pulleys of the sorter and the entire operation has to be shut down while the items are untangled.
- After the recycling is mechanically sorted into the various categories, materials are baled and head to their final destination, where they will be processed into new items. This vide is a comprehensive look at what happens to our recycling.
Due to the fluctuating nature of commodity markets, the end market for something today is not necessarily where it will go six months from now. That said, here’s a snapshot of where Port Alberni’s recycling is currently ending up in May 2021 – information from the Recycle BC website, and confirmed by their marketing communication specialists.
Materials collected as part of the Recycle BC program curbside, multi-family and in depots are currently sold and processed as follows:
- Plastic containers, plastic bags and overwrap collected in BC remain in BC, with a local end-market in Metro Vancouver that processes this material into pellets that can be manufactured into new packaging and other products.
- Glass is shipped to Abbotsford to be processed into new bottles and to Quesnel to be made into sandblast materials.
- Metal containers are sold to end-markets in BC, Ontario and the United States and can be recycled into new packaging, like aluminum cans, and sheet metal for automotive manufacturing.
- Paper is sold to end-markets with a majority targeted for markets in the Pacific Northwest, and the remainder elsewhere in North America or overseas. It can be made into things like egg cartons, boxes and other paper products.
- Foam packaging is recycled locally in Metro Vancouver, in the US and overseas and made into things like picture frames, crown mouldings and new foam packaging.
- Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is collected as part of a research and development project to determine how best this material can be recycled. During this time, material that is unable to be recycled will be recovered and produced into engineered fuel.
In 2019, 90 per cent of the materials collected through the Recycle BC program was managed by recycling. A portion of the material collected could not be recycled, but moved up the pollution prevention hierarchy by being turned into an engineered fuel to be used as a replacement for coal in industrial processes. This represented only 3 per cent of Recycle BC materials, the majority of which was plastic that could not be recycled. Finally, 7 per cent of the material collected was sent to landfills because of contamination. All of this information is in Recycle BC’s annual report for 2019.
For more information on local recycling services visit acrd.bc.ca/recycling_schedules. Questions about sorting your recycling? Download the free Sort’nGo app from your mobile app store. You can also check out the Facebook Page “Alberni Valley Waste Reduction Education” which has weekly tips and updates for the valley.