These are dark days for recycling and composting in Hamilton
If you’re among the thousands of citizens who try to do the right things about recycling and waste diversion, these are not good times.
It’s a discouraging double-whammy.
Part one happened early this year. After years of imploring citizens to put items like coffee cup lids, Styrofoam and black plastic in the recycling box, city officials had to reverse that. It was, in the words of city recycling manager Emil Prpic, a “market-driven” eco-dilemma. The problem is, virtually no one wanted to buy those recycled goods. In January, China, which was the giant in the buying market, cracked down on imported plastics. It applied new more stringent purity standards that ruled out most of our plastics.
There must be more buyers than China? Yes. But China has been voracious, consuming more than half the world’s recyclables. There isn’t adequate infrastructure yet to make up for that lost capacity.
So in Hamilton, and many other municipalities, recyclables have to be stored or handled by a third party. Tragically, some of this stuff is ending up in our landfills.
That was bad enough, but then more recently the second whammy hit. The city’s composting plant on Burlington Street East was stinking. It has been odiferous for a long time, but recently the problem has been getting worse. Last month, responding to growing citizen complaints, the plant was closed until a solution can be found.
So that food and organic waste you have been separating? It’s going into our only landfill site in Glanbrook. Something like 660 tonnes — daily.
So no food waste recycling. Limited plastics recycling, with the most common types — so-called low grade plastics — being not recyclable because no one wants them. If they’re mixed in with other, legitimate recycling, they contaminate them and have to be sorted by hand otherwise the entire load is useless.
Just to add insult to injury, we’re living under a new government that doesn’t appear to believe the environment matters at all, and next door to a superpower that is losing its mind and racing backwards on environmental protection. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)