In April 2013, Halton Region added new rigid plastic packaging to its Blue Box, including clear plastic “clamshell” containers, black and clear plastic take-out containers, and single-serve plastic food containers.
Here, Halton Region and its external partners explain how these important additions to the Blue Box came to be.
“It was necessary to add these items to the Blue Box because the nature of our waste was changing — more and more retailers were introducing rigid plastic packaging in their stores, which meant Halton residents had more of it in their homes that needed to be thrown away,” stated David Miles of Halton Region. “Instead of ending up in landfill, it was important to ensure this rigid plastic packaging could be recycled. Halton’s Solid Waste Management Strategy identified this as a priority waste diversion initiative, but one that would require changes to our processing capabilities.”
“And that’s where the Continuous Improvement Fund (CIF) comes in,” added Mike Birett of the Continuous Improvement Fund. “In 2012, the CIF provided funding to Halton Region to help Emterra Environmental (which processes Halton’s Blue Box materials) to install a new piece of equipment in their facility called an “optical sorter.” The new optical sorter would allow Emterra to sort and separate the new rigid plastic packaging more easily and cheaper than if doing it by hand. The CIF also funded the construction of a transfer station to temporarily store Blue Box materials collected from your homes, as well as the “Look What’s New In Blue” communications program that helped educate Halton residents about what was now recyclable.”
“The optical sorter, a TITECH Autosort, came from the Netherlands and was installed in early 2013 at our Burlington materials recovery facility. Rigid plastic packaging from your Blue Box travels along a slow moving conveyor belt. They then drop onto an accelerator belt, which spreads out the packaging because this belt is moving so quickly,” stated Paulina Leung of Emterra Environmental. “As the packaging passes under the optical sorter, powerful reflective light sources or near-infrared spectrometers “read” the plastics, which then triggers a high pressurized blast of air to separate the plastic packaging by their individual resin types. This sorted plastic is then shipped to specific re-processors to be made into new products.”
“And just how did these re-processors come to be?” explained Sherry Arcaro of Stewardship Ontario. “In 2009, after much discussion with municipalities and their contractors about the influx of new rigid plastic packaging in the municipal waste stream, Stewardship Ontario initiated a Request for Expressions of Interest to find markets to manage these materials. Through capital grants provided to EFS Plastics in Listowel and Entropex Plastics in Sarnia, new sustainable markets were created. These markets thrive today and continue to expand with the growing need for processing of mixed post-consumer plastics.”
“I always get asked, what do these plastics get made into?” stated Joe Hruska of Canadian Plastics Industry Association. “Your answer is as close as your local retail and hardware stores. With new innovations in plastics recycling and manufacturing, you will find your Blue Box plastics being made into common household items such as baskets, tool boxes, storage containers, flower pots, garden furniture, pet product accessories and even paint trays. We can now conserve even more of our plastic resources while creating new jobs and investment locally to manufacture new and useful plastic products.”
The introduction of new rigid plastic packaging in the Blue Box, combined with the new optical sorting equipment, has proven to be quite successful. In April 2013, Halton collected approximately 13% more Blue Box materials than in April 2012.
This is a true testament to the important partnerships between municipalities and industry. More importantly, it demonstrates how committed Halton residents are to recycling more every day.