Calgary’s recycling program faces new challenges

The City of Calgary has been left in the lurch after China decided it no longer wants to be the world’s recycling bin.

Tonnes of plastics and paper from all over the world was sent there but the country recently decided there was too much non-recyclable, dangerous material coming with it, so it’s slashing how much it’s willing to take.

Calgary generates about one or two trailer loads of plastics a week, 3,000 tonnes annually, and about five trailer loads of mixed paper a day.

Over the life of the blue cart program, the city has been setting aside some of the revenue for a situation just like this, and it’s storing the materials until a buyer can be found.

The city works with a third-party company called Cascades Recovery which sorts the materials here before selling it overseas and to companies in Western Canada.

As of now, there are no changes planned to the recycling program. That means fees will stay the same and so will the materials which are picked up, but there’s nothing to stop changes in the future.

Even though China represented a large percentage of the recycling market, there are other manufacturers, mostly in Asia, that are likely going to try and step in to fill some of that hole but it’s not clear to what degree they’ll be able to do that.

Experts warn cities could eventually find themselves in a situation where they can’t store the recyclables and end up sending it to landfills.

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