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August 2009
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That Doesn't Belong in the Recycle Bin

The federal government is working towards meeting the Kyoto protocol. Under this accord, the idea is to reduce the amount of garbage that is ending up in our landfills. How do we do this? By recycling, by composting, by purchasing things in smaller packages and just by consuming less.

Sort your garbage. Break out the recycling. Separate the compost. And make sure it is in the right bin at the right time in front of your house.

The problem is that much of the recycling and compost is still ending up in the landfills. The Toronto Star has been reporting on this over the last year and I wrote about what is happening with our compost last week. This article is somewhat of a follow up to my compost article. While riding my bike home last week I got to thinking and wondered…

If garbage diversion is a priority why aren’t the municipalities paying individuals to sort it?

I do think that as residents we should do our part and separate our garbage, but we are all human and make mistakes with what we throw in what bin. But as the Toronto Star has reported, when something ends that isn’t permitted in the compost or recycling bin ends up there than the whole load goes the landfill.

I can see the argument already from the municipalities, ‘How do you expect us to pay for this?

Is it really an added cost? Sending waste to the landfill is expensive. quoted Michael Shapiro in an article ‘Do the Benefits of Recycling Outweigh the Costs?‘ where he states that “A well-run curbside recycling program can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $150 per ton…trash collection and disposal programs, on the other hand, cost anywhere from $70 to more than $200 per ton.” And that doesn’t include the revenue generated from then selling the recycled material.

Instead if the waste is diverted, composted or recycled, than there is a cost savings to the municipality. From a Life Cycle Cost perspective the overall cost for diversion is less than land-filling. Particularly when you look at it from the Triple Bottom Line perspective, the social and environmental costs from land-filling are far more expensive than those of composting or recycling.

In order to move forward and divert more of our garbage the municipalities need to step in and play a larger role. It’s time we start sorting our waste before it ends up in a landfill.