Recycling Adds up to Big Savings

Robert Thomas

When it comes to recycling, Moose Jaw is on the right track, and if people just diverted more recyclable items out of the landfill, it could add up to some big dollars.

That's the word from the City.

Speaking to the MJ Independent, City Works Manager Darrin Stephanson said he is encouraged by small, upward moves in residential recycling rates, but if more trash was diverted, it would help residential waste customers financially.

“Waste diversion by more recycling could add up to some big savings,” Stephanson said.

The savings would come about by reducing costs to dispose of the waste. Costs which are going up. An example of these increasing costs are the new provincial landfill regulations. Those new regulations include the requirement to cover the landfill dumping area five times a week, when previously it was only done three times a week. This new regulation alone will cost the City $436,000 additional dollars in 2018.

Presently, measuring in weight, diverting an additional 10% of residential waste would result in savings of approximately $70,000, Stephanson said. Savings passed back to residential customers by keeping rates lower.

In industrial countries, studies show, by weight, that 40% of all garbage is recyclable. Trash is measured by weight as well, because by volume would mean recyclables would make up a larger portion of the garbage.

Presently, Moose Jaw residential customers (those who receive City pickup) are diverting, on a by weight basis, 15% of all garbage away from the landfill and into their recycling bin. This leaves 25% of all recyclable trash ending up in the landfill.

Optimally, it would be ideal to see all recyclable waste take up 40% of what people throw away. Stephanson added, "I think it is reasonable to get to 25%".

From December 5 – 7, the City conducted a waste characterization study.  That study found that 25% of all residential garbage, by weight, being disposed of at the landfill, was recyclable. It also found that 35% of all waste, from all sources, likewise could have been diverted from the landfill and recycled. The other waste included in the study was from commercial buildings, apartments and what people hauled out to the landfill themselves.

“Residential is always better at recycling than businesses. Businesses don't do as good of a job, generally speaking,” Stephenson said.

Landfill use is 80% commercial/apartment, while residential makes up the remaining 20%.

A waste characterization study is where the different components of what ends up in the landfill are determined. It is measured by weight and not by volume. The study looked at random samplings of all the waste, whether it be residential, commercial or what the residents themselves were hauling out to the dump. 

The move from weekly to bi-weekly collection caused an increase of recycling in the last quarter of 2017. From October to the end of December, recycling increased by 7%. 

“It's too early to see if it is an overall trend, it is one of the slower times of the year (for waste collection). It is a bit of a success but we need more time to see if it is a trend,” Stephenson said.

Two of the bigger items, which were not often diverted, were plastic packaging and flyers. Plastic packaging would include, but are not limited to, things such as plastic which surrounds toys inside of boxes. Flyers are likely ending up in the garbage because it is just easier to toss them there, but the numbers do add up.

Stephanson said he had spoken to Loraas Disposal Services, the city's recycling contractor, and, for business reasons, they could not release actual figures. However, Moose Jaw did see a slight increase in recycling, whereas other centres saw slight decreases.

“To me, it means we are on the right track,” Stephenson said.

One of the reasons for moving to bi-weekly collection was to increase waste diversion, by recycling and composting, the other was to reduce the cost of waste collection for home owners. An additional cost benefit of bi-weekly collection means that the City does not have to buy as much equipment.


Asked about who gets the money from recycling, and if homeowners aren't actually paying, not just, for a large company to get rich, but also doing all of the work for them, Stephenson said "it's untrue."

“The notion that recycling collection leads to a profit should be dismissed. It would never merit as a business,” he said, adding "and the rumours that contractors are taking recyclables straight to the landfill is also untrue".

Under the recycling agreement the City has with Loraas, “all risk of commodity pricing rates are their responsibility. Recyclable commodity pricing has been low for a number of years…it (recycling) is a cost plus exercise.”

Although the products residents toss in their recycling bins may actually generate a small profit, those profits would be very very low. If it weren't for this small profit, private businesses would not be into recycling at all.

Asked about concerns that bi-weekly garbage collection leads to some people not having enough room to dispose of their garbage, the City does offer a second bin option. “We do a second can and do a maximum of two per property. We do understand there are larger families, with six or seven people, and one can is not enough, but we don't encourage it. We are encouraging people to recycle waste,” Stephanson said.

There is a $50 fee for the additional waste receptacle, plus the regular monthly $6.57 fee applies to the second can as well.

Asked about an additional garbage and recycling collection just after Christmas, Stephanson said a ball park figure would be about $45,000 for each.

To help people who have too much recyclable material to fit into the bin over the bi-weekly collection period, the City has a bulk recycle depot at the City yards 1010 High Street. People can drop off recyclables 24 hours a day.

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