Trashquisition rides again

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Inspectors flag recycling troubles

It’s 7 a.m. on Annette Crescent. About the only creatures out at this hour are some ambling crows, vociferous magpies, and Olivia Kwok.

The city’s waste diversion programs supervisor, Kwok was at Annette Crescent on Thursday morning for a surprise trash inspection of the street – one of about 115 she and her team plan to do this summer. The inspections, which started Monday, are meant to teach residents about how to sort their waste, and follow up on a test-run done last summer.

“The biggest thing we’ve learned is that people like direct information and tips,” Kwok said.

The inspection program sees city staffers check the waste bags and bins of homes on random streets just prior to the arrival of garbage trucks to see how well residents have sorted and placed their waste. They’re looking for signs of improper sorting (which can contaminate compost and raise the cost of recycling) overfull bins (which can spill), and improper cart placement (more work for collectors).

Problems earn residents an “Oops!” door-hanger with a description of what was done wrong. If inspectors find no problems in a home’s green bin, brown bin, and blue bag, they give its owner a “You’re WasteWise” sticker.

Kwok said the team gives out many more “Oops!” hangers than stickers, in part because some homes don’t have both their bins and a blue bag out when they arrive. Of the 1,219 homes inspected last year, 239 got stickers and 727 got hangers.

While plastics in the green bin got all the news last year, Kwok said last summer’s inspections found that St. Albert’s biggest problems were actually in its blue bags. This year’s inspections are paying particularly close attention to recycling as a result.

Kwok turns over one blue bag and notes that it contains wrappers, straws, plastic bottle caps, and a pool noodle. None of these items can be recycled, and they should instead go into the trash.

“The most common thing we’ve been seeing is the plastic bags and wrappers,” Kwok said, followed by tissues and shredded paper.

Plastic grocery bags should be used as trash can liners or placed in the dog-poop bag dispensers in local parks, Kwok said. Tissues and shredded paper should go in the green organics cart. Clothes and most plastic toys cannot be recycled, and should be donated or put in the brown bin.

Apart from an aerosol can in a brown bin (which should go to the recycling yard as hazardous waste) and some plastic bags in a green one, Kwok found few problems when she peeked under the bin lids on Annette Crescent  – although she did find some powerful stinks.

“Definitely wakes you up in the morning,” she quipped.

St. Albert has gotten much better when it comes to sorting its compostable waste, said Gerard Duffy, manager of the Roseridge landfill. Whereas last year there was so much plastic in the city’s compost that the landfill was considering fines, nowadays it’s about 93 per cent clean.

“It’s been a whirlwind of change for St. Albert.”

Visit bit.ly/2maLjvE for more waste-sorting tips.

 

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.