If you have received a sticker, a note, or a bag on your recycling bin recently, consider it a message from a friend.
Stickers, notes and bags of samples are how the friendly Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society waste educators Mary Forbes and Oliver Berger are communicating with the community to help make recycling better in our area.
The pair are currently conducting one of the four rounds of recycling audits they do for the city of Williams Lake, as part of their roles with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.
While their methods may appear at first a little unconventional, as they drive their audit materials, salvaged recycling and paperwork around in a cluttered convertible, they are indeed quite organized and on a mission as they roll around ahead of the city recycling truck.
The goal is to prevent fines and improve the effectiveness of recycling in the community, which many residents may feel can be confusing, so the pair try to clarify any uncertainty about what can be tossed in the curbside bin and what should be kept out to take to another location or trashed instead.
“We’re finding everyone’s trying really hard, it’s generally very clean,” said Forbes, noting one challenge is a lot of residents “wish-cycle” in that they want something to be recycled and they put it in the bin but it isn’t actually recyclable through the curbside program.
Glass, plastic bags and styrofoam have to be recycled at a recycling depot like the Frizzi Road Station, Wildwood transfer station or the 150 Mile transfer station because they are dealt with in a completely separate system and glass poses obvious hazards for sorting. Curbside bins are emptied into trucks which take the materials to a facility off of the Mackenzie Avenue connector, where it is baled and shipped out.
“If they put those items in the recycling bin, they’re contaminating the recycling that everyone has worked so hard to make clean.”
Contamination of the recycling with dirty recyclables, non-recyclables or items only recyclable at the depot or specialty locations causes a loss for the city, as contamination more than three per cent results in hefty fines for the city. Each fine for the contamination could cost taxpayers —via the city or CRD— $5,000.
In order to help educate residents and improve recycling, Berger and Forbes initially began their auditing program in the 108 Mile area for the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) six years ago.
The CRD wanted to improve their recycling program to reduce the contamination levels and hired them to conduct audits and education.
Then, three years ago, the city of Williams Lake agreed to also hire them to provide audits and help educate city residents.
The duo with their thorough tracking, educational stickers and careful inspections help save the city money and educate residents so they can avoid bylaw fines.
The pair are passionate about what they do and want to ensure more of what people put in their bins gets recycled.
“When in doubt, throw it out — or find out is better,” said Forbes of those who aren’t sure exactly what they can put in their bins for pick up.
She appreciates recycling takes time, and people are spending valuable time to reduce their waste, and so making sure to prevent contamination means ensuring the time spent isn’t wasted.
They said they see a real difference when they look at recycling other places they check recycling and she can see the difference since they began auditing and she can see the effort Williams Lake and 108 residents put in.
“It’s easy to go to work and smile here,” said Forbes.
“They know it’s the right thing to do, it’s really heartening.”
“We just want to help you learn a bit more,” said Berger about the audits, noting they love giving out gold stars for super recyclers. It’s also important to keep up education as the recycling program has gone through changes and each year, it seems as though something new will come out for what is or isn’t accepted.
“The only thing that’s always the same about recycling is it’s never the same,” said Forbes.
They keep track of improvements and if residents don’t manage to get better and continue to contaminate the recycling, after audits and education, then bylaw enforcement will get involved and residents can be subject to fines.
Both Forbes and Berger also post educational and entertaining videos on Facebook about all things waste reduction, from composting to quick tips for reducing waste production.
Find the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society and follow them on Facebook or at @ccc_society on Instagram.
The city of Williams Lake website includes this list of what can be put in the curbside bin and notes thanks to recycling, thousands of tons of materials have been kept out of the landfill.
Recyclable Items which can go in curb side bins
- Tins cans, cleaned
- Paper products -not bound books
- Most rigid plastic packaging
- No Styrofoam, plastic bags, or glass
- Paper cups
While talking to the Tribune, a city truck caught up with the pair and emptied the bins they had just finished auditing, the driver commented how the recycling program wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for the work Berger and Forbes do.
“Everybody needs a reminder,” he said.
For a more detailed list of curbside recycling do’s and don’ts, check out: https://recyclebc.ca/what-can-i-recycle-2/ and click on each category for specific information.