Dead rats, old food are contaminating blue bags and fouling this recycling plant

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A lot of disgusting garbage is showing up at the recycling facility in Corner Brook, and the company that runs the plant says that’s affecting its ability to recruit and keep workers. 

Dwight Whynot, president of Scotia Recycling, said workers have had to sort through things like used syringes, dirty diapers and even animal carcasses in blue bags at the Corner Brook operation.

“The other day, I had actually had a dead rat in a rat trap show up in a bag,” said Whynot.

None of the items he mentioned belong in a blue bag but should instead have been placed at the curb in a clear garbage bag, as Western Regional Waste Management rules require.

Whynot estimated that contamination rates in the region are as much as 30 per cent higher than what his workers see in other locations.

Residents are throwing syringes, dirty diapers and even animal carcasses in with their recycling, and it’s causing problems for Scotia Recycling. (Provided by Scotia Recycling)

He’s asking people to become informed about what’s permitted in blue bags, and to realize that after their waste is picked up, someone at his plant has to deal with whatever gets sent their way.

Two problems

As Whynot sees it, there are two factors leading to problems with recycling in the region.

First, people are putting items in the blue bag that just don’t belong there, including textiles and Styrofoam, in addition to the things that are more repulsive.

It can be quite disgusting.– Dwight Whynot

But he said workers are also sorting through a lot of food containers that do belong in the bag, but that have food still in them or that haven’t been rinsed out.

“It can be quite disgusting when that happens.” said Whynot, adding that it can lead to bad odours and can attract maggots and even rodents.

“People just need to be a little bit more careful what they put in the blue bag.”

Hard to keep workers

Whynot said one result of the lack of compliance is that contaminated blue bags end up being sent to the landfill, although he noted that each bag is sorted through so one improperly rinsed container won’t lead to a whole bag being trashed.

Management is asking people to become informed about what’s permitted in blue bags, and to realize that after their waste is picked up, someone at the plant has to deal with whatever gets sent their way. (Provided by Scotia Recycling)

Whynot praised some residents in the region for going to the effort to properly clean and sort items for their blue bags, but he said it takes only one or two contaminated bags in a load to cross-contaminate the sorting line.

He said the biggest challenge for him as an employer has been in keeping workers. He said the turnover rate is much higher than in other locations where Scotia Recycling operates.

Just respect the fact that there’s somebody on the other end of that blue bag.– Dwight Whynot

“That has presented a great challenge for us keeping and retaining people on a daily [and] weekly basis,” Whynot told CBC Radio’s Newfoundland Morning.

Whynot is asking people to remember that his workers have the job of sorting through each and every blue bag they put out.

“Just respect the fact that there’s somebody on the other end of that blue bag, sorting it and trying to make recycling work for the province, so that would be a huge help for us,” he said.

Don’t know, don’t care

As for why people would be choosing to contaminate the recycling stream, Whynot said he believes some people just aren’t aware of which items go in their clear garbage bag and which ones go in the blue bag.

He’s recommending that people check out the website for Western Regional Waste Management to ensure they’re only putting recyclable items in the blue bag.

But Whynot said he believes there’s also still frustration with the new expanded recycling program, which began in July 2018 and involved a switch from black bags to clear bags for garbage.

“New program on the garbage side, so I’m sure some people are almost kind of hiding some things in the blue bag, too,” he said.

“When you do have a garbage bag limit for a household, sometimes if you exceed that, then you end up putting some things in the blue bag.”

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