Recycling market creates confusion in Highlands East

By Sue Tiffin

Published Oct. 16 2018

Highlands East environmental supervisor Stewart Hurd was surprised to receive a letter from Waste Connections of Canada noting that the municipality could face additional fees for contaminated recycling and suggesting the recycling program be temporarily discontinued.

Waste Connections of Canada manages the pickup haulage and processing of the township’s dual stream recycling material – fibres and containers – at their Bracebridge facility. In 2017 the company collected a total of 427.69 tonnes of material from the four landfill sites and one transfer station in Highlands East.

Hurd presented the letter which he had received alongside the Waste Connections invoice to council on Oct. 3. It reads that “[t]he recycling industry including Waste Connections is experiencing high levels of contamination which is trash in the recycling. This is coming at a time when the requirements for quality (clean recycling) are increasing due to new policies in China.”

“In 2017” the letter reads “China began to limit the quantity of material it accepts for recycling and in 2018 added specific contamination limits set at 0.5 per cent and reducing the number of import quotas from 900 companies in 2016 to 2017 to 50 companies in 2018. These significant changes are affecting the recycling industry world-wide.”

The letter says that because of this reduction in demand from China the value of many recyclable commodities has plummeted and so the company can no longer fully absorb the “drastic decline in the value of recyclables.” It states that a contamination charge or increased processing fees due to contamination might be applied going forward.

“Although this may not be something you have previously considered it may also be more cost effective to temporarily suspend your recycle program until such time as commodity values rebound.”

“When I read that I was thinking we’re not just going to stop our recycling program” Hurd told council.

“This letter was unexpected and very concerning due to its nature especially the sentence referring to the ‘consideration to temporarily suspend the recycle program until commodity values rebound’” he told the Echo .

Hurd did speak to a representative from Waste Connections Canada prior to his report to council.

“[He] explained to me that he was surprised we received this letter and he believed that we will not be negatively impacted at this time which is something I am following up with in order to get it in writing” he said.

Hurd later said his reasoning for presenting the letter to council was to “ensure awareness of the current status of the recycling program within the municipality of Highlands East as well as the province of Ontario and that there is a potential for additional processing fees because of the drop in value of the commodities at this time.”

Hurd said it is essential for the public to be aware of the municipality’s recycling program and to minimize contamination while recycling.

Additionally at the council meeting Waste Reduction Week which is held nationwide from Oct. 15 to 21 was declared. The municipality’s main focus this year is the importance of increased and proper recycling practices within the municipality.