Almost exactly five months since curbside recycling came to St. Johns (it was Oct. 18*, you may recall) Jason Sinyard, manager of the City of St. John’s Waste Management Division, says that approximately 65 per cent of urban residents are making use of the program — and he’s happy with that number.
“For our very first year we were trying to achieve 50 per cent participation as a benchmark,” he says. “So, we surpassed that … It’s one of these programs that kind of grows over time, so the 65 per cent now is a good number, and over the next couple years we hope to see that number increase.”
Based on current projections, the recycling program in St. John’s will keep about 4,000 tonnes of waste out of the landfill — more if participation rates keep rising.
“For our very first year we were trying to achieve 50 per cent participation as a benchmark, so, we surpassed that.” –Jason Sinyard
“We have some staff that go ’round to the various neighborhoods to speak to individuals who aren’t doing it yet,” says Sinyard, “and speak to individuals who are having some problems. So that, and a little bit of peer pressure, will help as more people get involved.”
The City of Mount Pearl is also making use of the recycling facility at Robin Hood Bay, and they have a 75 per cent participation rate with the new dual stream program. However, Works Superintendent Eric Arsenault reports that their diversion rate, the amount of waste kept out of the landfill, is 15 per cent — just about on par with St. John’s.
Mount Pearl also has a leg up in any contest one might impose: they’ve had curbside recycling for paper products since October 2005.
Not a profitable business, but a successful program
The one thing that nobody is willing to deal with, however, is glass. Sinyard says that glass presents health and safety problems for waste management workers, but it also contaminates the other products.
“These pieces of broken glass, they end up getting into your other materials,” he says. “When those bales are getting ready for market, you have shards of broken glass that invariably get mixed up with these other materials, then what you have is your buyers on the back end of this process — they no longer want your materials.”
That’s a problem, because even with happy buyers, the program is losing money.
“Recycling programs generally don’t pay for themselves,” says Sinyard. “Any revenue that we make from the sale of the recyclables, at the end of the process, goes back into offsetting some of the operating costs. But it doesn’t come close to covering the operating costs.”
Still, five months in, the program is considered “successful” — so much so that the city of St. John’s is in talks with the province to build a composting facility for organic waste. A timeline for that is yet to be determined.
*This article originally quoted the date as Oct. 19.