No one likes to be the bearer of bad tidings, but sometimes that goes with the job.
This is true for many lines of work, and recycling depot operators are not immune. They find themselves in the public eye every day, and as a result are often in the position of filtering questions about what goes into the bins. With the complexity of the recycling system, that can mean a lot of public education.
On the surface, occasional frustration when we drop off our items is understandable. Maybe something that was accepted last year isn’t anymore. Or items excluded don’t seem to make sense.
Add to that the fact that recycling is usually among many other errands on our list, and we can get antsy. This can create the perfect storm where generally kind, reasonable folks lash out at depot staff who are simply gatekeeping.
It’s easy to forget that not too many years back, there were no recycling depots or staff at all. Instead, we had a few unmonitored metal recycling bins around town we’d just toss our stuff into. Not surprisingly, they ended up so contaminated that about 40 per cent of the volume was landfilled. These sites were also magnets for anything people wanted to dump, and everything from couches to televisions to dirty clothes accumulated there.
Our region’s six depots have reduced contamination to under three per cent and also brought in the opportunity for many new items to be recycled, including cork, pens, small appliances, styrofoam and batteries. Beyond these, the introduction of Recycle BC (formerly MMBC) a few years ago opened the possibility for packaging like flexible snack wrappers, coffee cups, aerosol cans and glass containers to be recycled (none of which were before).
Despite improvements, we can still be tempted to shoot the messenger when we put something in the wrong bin or find out the item is not accepted. Here are some alternative ways to put that energy to better use:
1. Plan ahead. Allow for more time at the depot if you have items you need to ask questions about.
2. Download the Waste Wise Guide from LetsTalkTrash.ca and get informed about the ins and outs of local recycling programs.
3. Get the Recyclopedia App on your phone. It is a search engine for finding out where to recycle items throughout BC.
4. Write us at info@LetsTalkTrash.ca with questions about hard to recycle items.
5. Remember depot staff are not the rule-makers, just the gatekeepers.
6. Contact Sunshine Disposal for any comments about depot staff, should you have any compliments or concerns.
7. Go to the source of the rulemaking, and write either BC Ministry of Environment or the specific program you are commenting about. Making your voice heard can result in changes to the system.
Remember to reduce and reuse before getting to recycling, and you’ll also find you have fewer queries at the depot or your curbside bin.
Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program.