Every time a Calgarian walks to a waste bin, it’s decision time.
Since 2017, we must choose between the black bin, blue bin or green bin.
The Calgary Journal recently went bin diving at Mount Royal University. The mission? To see if people actually care about proper waste separation.
And while some people certainly do try, others seem to be unsure or careless about ensuring even small items are separated properly.
Okay, by no means was this a comprehensive examination of all garbage disposal at our massive campus. Rather, it was a quick analysis of one sorting station in a random hallway meant to prove the reporter’s hunch that there would be problems.
There were tea bags and food in the mixed recycling bin, both which should have been disposed of in the organics compartment.
The landfill bin was full of refundable bottles and a half-full Starbucks cup. The bottles should have been in the refundable bin, and the coffee cup should have been emptied before being placed into the mixed recycling bin.
The organics bin was also contaminated with plastic forks, containers and lids, all which should have been in the mixed bin as long as each had the recycle symbol.
Sustainability at MRU
Gerry Young, manager of environmental services at Mount Royal University, says that Sustainable MRU is pursuing waste sorting education for all.
According to Young, the main message has been, “When in doubt, choose mixed recycle.”
“The City of Calgary bylaws prohibit refined paper or organics in the landfill bins and only four items belong in the landfill: chewing gum, styrofoam, cellophane and any plastics without the recycle symbol,” says Young.
Despite the obvious mistakes people are making, he explains that education will help them participate successfully in waste sorting.
City of Calgary expertise
Sharon Howland, program management leader for the City of Calgary, echoes Young’s belief that education is key.
According to Howland, Calgarians in residential areas have embraced the greencart program enthusiastically, explaining that participation is about 30 per cent higher than anticipated.
“The message around composting and the use of the greencarts is quite simple, making it fairly easy to communicate when we basically say it’s all your food and yard waste,” says Howland.
Howland explains that recycling is less straightforward.
For example, styrofoam should always be placed in the black bin even if it has the recycle symbol on it.
“We do always encourage Calgarians to reference our ‘What Goes Where’ tool on our website to determine whether a material should go in the black, blue, or green cart,” says Howland.
What to do with rule-breakers
If certain households are not separating their waste properly the City of Calgary will reach out by leaving educational information. When the ‘education-first’ approach doesn’t work, the city will tag the cart and turn it sideways so that the resident who is disposing improperly does not have their waste picked up that week.
“It is very effective to leave a cart uncollected and request that people address the issue, because people want their waste taken away,” explains Howland.
At the time of publication, no residents have faced any fines because the city views tickets as a last resort.
- By Megan Atkins-Baker