Recycling the Christmas rush

   - Colleen Flanagan/The News
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

The days between Christmas and New Year’s can be a quiet time – the holiday rush is over and the turkey hangover still lingers. Except in the stores and malls, where people are made their final exchanges. And at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot, where yesterday’s Christmas treasure is now post-holiday trash.

“I can’t leave my post. I’m on Christmas wrap patrol,” Kim Day said Monday as she paced back and forth between the parking stalls where people drop their cardboard, newspaper, Christmas packaging and bottles.

“We’ve got all hands on deck right now.”

Day is executive-director of the recycling society and is decked out in gloves and vest and taking a hands-on approach to ensuring drop off of recyclables takes place efficiently and the lineups are as short as possible.

This year, the depot isn’t taking any Christmas wrapping paper, because there’s too much plastic and foil and ribbons mixed along with it, making it worthless in the recycling stream.

So Day is giving polite reminders to residents as they pull up, only to be told by most that, yes, they do know that wrapping paper can’t be recycled.

Christmas is the busiest time for the depot as the waves of Christmas consumerism ebb and the debris of the holidays is hauled to the depot.

All of the 18 depot employees were on duty Monday to process the 1,000 vehicles lining up, An average day only sees about 350 stop in.

The depot is not a relaxing place to contemplate the approaching new year. A tinny radio speaker blasts over the noise of constant smashing of glass bottles and jars. Forklifts groan while a steady stream of urbanites pull up, toss out their recyclables, then take off, ready to start the new year without the trash from the old.

Leanne Koehn of the recycling centre says its collection trucks spend longer on their routes at this time of year because there’s so much to pick up at curbside.

“It’s crazy.

“Once you see it [Christmas recyclables] all together, it’s overwhelming.”

While plastic products marked 1, 2, 4 and 5 are recyclable, such packaging without those numbers goes straight to the dump.

Koehn said next year she plans to use decorative cloth bags as Christmas wrapping paper.

Maple Ridge’s recycling and garbage collection system is unique in Metro Vancouver. Its curbside sorting system requires residents to divide their paper, cardboard and plastics into five bags and one blue box.

The recyclables are then dumped into separate bins in the recycling trucks so that when those trucks arrive at the depot, there’s far less work to do than a single stream system – in which recyclables are tossed into a single blue bag, then sorted at the recycling centre.

“It’s great. Everybody knows what to do. It’s great to watch.”

Just look at the people who pull up and you can see they know exactly what goes where, she points out.

Day says residents support the system, as they do Maple Ridge’s other unique aspect – no municipal collection of garbage. The district’s council, except for Couns. Bob Masse and Corisa Bell, have decided to stick with the current system, in which four private waste haulers collect garbage from residential neighbourhoods.

Day says Maple Ridge already has municipality-wide collection of garbage, provided by the private haulers contracted by residents.

“We have it. It’s just not on our taxes. People have a choice. It’s a true user-pay system.”

Day pointed out that some residents just contract to have their garbage picked up once a month, keeping their monthly bills low. If people excel in recycling, they can reduce their garbage pickup costs.

“It’s a different system, for sure.”

Mayor Ernie Daykin said recently that implementing municipal collection could add another $350 to a homeowner’s tax bill.

Maple Ridge though is doing its part to reduce the amount of garbage that’s been trucked to the Cache Creek dump by Metro Vancouver.

Maple Ridge’s percentage of waste diversion, as recorded at the Metro Vancouver transfer stations, is about 52 per cent, Day said.

Region-wide, about 55 per cent of the garbage is recycled.

Metro Vancouver’s goal is to reach 70 per cent recycling by 2015.


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