Councillor John Rich used props to report on the status of recycling in Saugeen Shores at the June 10 Committee of the Whole in Port Elgin.

Hub Staff

The topic of recycling was once again at the fore during the June 10 Saugeen Shores Committee of Whole. Councillor John Rich, who sits as Chair on Bruce Area Solid Waste Recycling (BASWR), reported that a total of 5,341 tonnes of waste had been diverted from landfill to date as a result of recycling programs in Bruce County. BASWR originated in Saugeen Shores in 1990 and now proudly serves 87 percent of Bruce County.

With props at hand, Rich dispelled recycling myths and answered common questions he receives form residents. He demonstrated why our local community program is as successful as it is and how it measured up compared to other municipalities.

In Saugeen Shores we pay a consumer cost of under $30 for our recycling service, Rich reported, whereas larger municipalities can see upwards of $400 per household. Rich pointed out that one major difference in the BASWR recycling program is the curb-side sorting as well as their transparency with consumers in what gets recycled and what doesn’t.

Products that can’t be recycled in our community are left behind and the homeowner is then responsible for its disposal, explained Rich. When sorting is done at the recycling plant, consumers can be given the misconception that anything put into the blue bin is ultimately recycled.

Rich indicated that some municipalities have up to 40 percent of blue bin material dumped into landfills, these same municipalities are paying significantly higher rates for their recycling services. With BASWR filtering recyclables before they even reach the truck, Saugeen Shores successfully recycles 98 percent of what they take.

Councillor Rich stressed the importance of consumer responsibility and said something he hears frequently from residents is their discontent in sending milk cartons and tetra paks to the landfill.

“My response is always, if you don’t want to send a tetra pak to landfill, don’t buy tetra paks in this community. If you don’t want to send milk cartons to landfill, don’t buy milk cartons in this community,” Rich said. “The big difference we can make is going to come from our consumer purchasing power.”

Commodity destination was another aspect Councillor Rich explored in Council Chambers. There’s no longer a market for many recyclables, which has driven municipalities to remove items from their recycling programs, or as in Lacombe, Alberta, suspended the recycling service altogether. A large influence on deteriorating recycling programs has been China’s recent ban on Canadian exported recyclables.

While encouraged with the new film plastic recycling venture to turn plastic bags into pellets, Rich pointed out that like many other commodity destinations, if the market for plastic pellets dissipates we no longer have anywhere to take them. He explained further and described the depleting profits on other materials.

“We make no money on glass,” said Rich. “Newspaper, not even any market for it anymore. Paper, like regular paper, not a market for that," he said.

Despite these discouraging facts, Rich reassured Council that the Saugeen Shores recycling service is a successful one. “We are making a profit every year. We have a $2 million reserve for expansion,” said Councillor Rich. “And we’re only charging our municipality under $30 a year.”

Deputy Mayor Don Matheson was satisfied with Councillor Rich’s report and claimed that "Saugeen Shores is way ahead of the spectrum when it comes to recycling."

Matheson expressed a need to get businesses and manufacturers on board to help with waste reduction. “It’s maybe time that some of these companies that are making these products start to take ownership for what they’re doing and start to have to pay some recycling fees for what’s happening to our dumps and our landfills," he suggested.

Matheson mused about future opportunities for Saugeen Shores to deal with waste such as “a machine to grind up the plastic bottles” for other uses or an incinerator.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau again commended Rich and BASWR on their efforts. "BASWR has always had the philosophy that if we’re going to take it, we’re going to recycle it,” said the mayor. “We’re just not taking stuff just to feel good and pretend that we’re doing something good for our landfill or our environment," he said.