Lessons Learned by a Pair of Recycling Gumshoes
There’s a bit of mystery surrounding the secret life of your recyclables. Where do they go once they leave the curb? What happens to them at the recycling facility? Do they actually just end up at the landfill? To track down the truth, we jumped at the chance to go straight to the source and tagged along on the public tour of ReCool Canada’s recycling plant. The tour gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how recyclables are collected, sorted, processed, and marketed in Thunder Bay. We also discovered a lot of helpful recycling facts and tips that we thought we should share.
One of the most common questions posed to Steve Kozak, our tour guide and ReCool’s VP of operations, is why plastics #3-7 are not recycled in Thunder Bay. The answer: there aren’t any markets nearby that would accept them, and the costs of shipping the plastics to another market would be too high for ReCool ,which is an independently owned business and not government subsidized.
Steve was eager to clarify the misconception that recyclable material brought to the plant ultimately finds its way to the landfill. He assured us that the only items brought to the landfill are those that ReCool cannot recycle, like plastics #3-7. So, though you may see a ReCool truck pulling out of the landfill, it may have been there for another reason – such as dropping off glass, which will be crushed and added as a road base.
When asked about the do’s and don’ts of recycling, Steve had some helpful suggestions. It’s okay to leave tape on boxes, and pizza boxes are accepted as well. Unfortunately, ReCool can’t recycle paper coffee cups because of the waxy film lining the inside. Since plastic shopping bags melt at a different rate than plastics #1 and 2 they cannot be recycled at ReCool, but many grocery stores will accept them. Remember to rinse out cans and milk cartons, which will help ReCool employees avoid spills and odours. Paper with heavily saturated inks, like the yellow phone book or wrapping paper, cannot be recycled at ReCool because the dye is too expensive to remove.
Another recycling enthusiast questioned why blue bags are used rather than bins. When the trucks drop off the blue bags at the facility, we could see that they are literally piled to the ceiling. In our opinion, the bags prevent the recyclables from spilling all over the plant until they are ready for sorting, much of which is done by hand. This makes for a cleaner and safer environment for ReCool employees. Steve informed us that once the items are sorted, the bags are melted down and made into new blue bags for future use.
For a couple of recycling sleuths like us, eager to get to the bottom of Thunder Bay’s recycling scene, the tour satisfied our curiosity. Check out the photos below for a worthwhile glimpse at the inner operations of a local business that is dedicated to making our community and environment more sustainable.
Page last updated on Monday, October 31, 2011