On Monday, Recycle Southeast New Brunswick (SENB) implemented a new policy to reject trash bags that were non-compliant with the current green-blue regulations. Noncompliant bags were left on the curb and tagged with a sticker citing their specific violation.
While most municipalities in the region, including Sackville, are adapting the change, the town council in Moncton received so many complaints from residents that they voted to suspend the program for three weeks while undertaking an information blitz to educate residents.
“There was certainly some confusion over the whole wet-dry program,” admitted Gena Alderson, community relations director at Recycle SENB. “Instead, we’ve replaced that with the simpler term green-blue, though the system is the same as before. Compostable organic material goes in the green bag, inorganic recyclables in the blue, and hazardous waste must be delivered separately.”
Residents’ bags are currently being rejected for the following reasons: the bag was non-transparent or contained a non-transparent bag (creating a safety hazard for workers, as it could contain hazardous waste); the bag was not blue or green; organic waste was found in the blue recyclables bag, contaminating it; glass/recyclables were found in the green bag, preventing it from being composted; the bag was too heavy/bulky; the bag contained hazardous waste, which must be delivered to the plant separately.
The sorting rules apply solely to residential garbage because Recycle SENB has no jurisdiction over commercial garbage. Nearly three times as much commercial waste goes into the landfill.
“The only control we have over commercial companies is the rate we charge for garbage collection,” Alderson said. “In the future, we may charge more for unsorted garbage.”
“The largest problem we have here at the plant,” Alderson said, “is that people put glass in their green bags. Glass always breaks before reaching the plant, and we end up with glass shards in our compost, which prevents us from selling it commercially. All we can do is use it to cover the top of the landfill.”
According to Alderson, even if glass is properly sorted into blue bags, the plant is unable to recycle the shards, and it still ends up in the landfill.
Recycle SENB was until recently known as the Westmorland-Albert Solid Waste Corporation. It continues to serve the counties of Westmorland and Albert (and provides a landfill to Kings and Kent counties). Approximately one-third of New Brunswick residents rely on Recycle SENB for waste collection.
“I think this [green-blue system] is a better system than the old wet-dry, but any time you change what you want people to do you have to educate them,” said Michael Fox, a geography professor at Mount Allison University. “We don’t educate new students about the system. We’re better than some other communities, but we can do a lot better.”
Fox also noted the sustainability plan proposed by the town of Sackville in 2013, which listed commercial apartment sorting as the town’s sole priority in waste disposal. Garbage collected from commercial apartments in Sackville is not separated on the basis of compostable or organic material. “This has been delayed by the council because they are reluctant to raise taxes to fund the sorting, but the costs could also be downloaded onto landlords or renters,” Fox said. The town council plans to revisit waste sorting for apartments in 2014.