The last time the town was able to recycle its glass was in 2007. Since then glass at the recycle depot has been sent to the landfill.
But municipalities in central Alberta are doing the same thing. After 2007 the desire for certain materials such as glass and cardboard dropped and towns such as Ponoka do not have a place to put it.
Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services, says Ponoka received $38,000 in 2007 in recycling revenue but recyclers now do not want certain waste.
Since 2008, Rod Carrick, public works foreman has had a challenge finding a place to take corrugated cardboard as well. “There was actually a market for this stuff years ago.”
Despite most products having a recycle symbol, finding a company willing to take the product is a challenge.
“That’s the problem that happens with a lot of things with recycling,” added Carrick.
He remembers when recycled glass was used for stucco on buildings but the product is not used as much. Tin however is sold to Harper’s Metals and town workers ship the metal to Red Deer.
One of the reasons the town has maintained the recycling depot is there is a strong desire from residents to recycle.
He also feels people would be upset with the change.
The problem is a question of economics, says Wes Muir, business consultant and former media advisor for Waste Management Canada. “It has a very low value.”
Collecting and processing the materials far outweighs the return on investment and companies are reluctant to take on a product that does not make them money. The glass also has limited uses.
“The making of glass is very energy intensive,” said Muir.
Materials such polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make pop bottle and high density polyethylene (HDP) are being used more frequently by companies as they are easier to recycle.
And waste streams are constantly evolving; newsprint used to be the largest recycled material but now electronic products are leading the way. The challenge is finding a way to recycle certain products.
“Technically anything is recyclable but can it be done economically?” said Muir.
The dilemma for municipalities is finding a way to meet people’s desire to recycle.
Carrick says municipalities such as Olds, Lacombe and Wetaskiwin also do not have any options to recycle their glass.
In 2010 Ponoka received $4,000 in recycling revenue and in 2011 received $19,000.