Opinion

COLUMN: You're telling me I can't recycle glass at the curb?

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No more glass in the blue bin?

When it comes to Head Shakers of 2013, that's pretty close to the top of the list for me.

Starting in January, residents are being asked to stop putting jars and jugs and all that stuff out to the curb.

Why? Because almost all of it shatters in these shared bins, "contaminating" the mix and reducing the value of all of it.

And the main driver is a new deal the City of New West—and virtually all cities in B.C.—struck this fall for a new recycling program.

It all started when the province told industry—everyone who produces or sells packaging and printed products—that they need to take care of dealing with all these recyclables. So "industry" set up the non-profit organization Multi Material B.C. (MMBC), which has struck deals with cities whereby MMBC pays each city to pick up recyclables.

Problem is, MMBC told cities it doesn't want to deal with glass, unless residents put it out in a separate container.

Kristian Davis, the supervisor of New West's solid waste and recycling branch, said the city explored this, but rejected the idea because "it would be a huge cost to residents."

So here we are. I don't know about you, but I'm lazy, so my beer and wine bottles go out in the blue box each week and I get a cheery "hello" from the elderly Chinese woman who does the rounds on our street.

I can still separate those out and put them out next to the bin, I guess.

But there's still a heck of a lot of non-refundable glass coming into our house from the grocery store—everything from hamburger relish and pickle jars to salad dressing and soya sauce bottles.

Kristian says the most recent audit of our recyclables—believe it or not, they dump a truck and spend about a week sorting it out—shows only about 1.8 per cent (by volume) of what's in there is glass. He also said about 95 per cent of all refundable containers are returned.

(He also pointed out some quirky stuff, like people in the West End read a lot more newspapers than the rest of the city and people in Queensborough drink a lot of milk. Queen's Park residents may be most peeved about this glass thing, because he says they use more than other neighbourhoods.)

In the end, the upside of the change is cost savings for residents.

The MMBC program officially starts in May—at which time the city hopes to have everyone adapted to keeping out the glass—and Kristian said the utility rate for 2014 will drop by 7.8 per cent from 2013.

For now, our options are saving the glass and taking it to the city's recycling depot next to Canada Games Pool, and taking returnables to one of New West's four Encorp Return-It depots.

Most won't do that. It's got to be easy and convenient.

When the city rolled out its "clean green" bins in 2011 there was immediately a huge reduction in the weight of stuff going to the landfill. And the single-stream recycling in the big blue bins also improved the diversion rate. Unfortunately, it doesn't require a smartypants to predict that the no-glass policy will be a step backward, and the weight of New West's garbage will rise in the new year.

In future, glass may become a non-issue though, Kristian says, as industry will be encouraged to move to more plastic bottles. And pickles, bottled in glass because of the acidity of pickle juice, could be added to the refund program.

Meantime, why not get crafty?

All those glass jars and bottles make fabulous candle holders or vases for flowers. Or why not make a garden sculpture, or put a family photo in a jar and call it a memory capsule?

Hopefully the project ideas are endless, because at my house the raw materials will be stacking up.

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.

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