97% of Calgarians recycle since the introduction of the Blue Cart curbside recycling program in 2009. Although The City collects only from single-family homes, the visibility of the Blue Cart program has increased the focus on recycling in Calgary in general.

Philippa Wagner, waste diversion specialist in The City’s Waste & Recycling Services area says, “In 2008, before the [curbside] program was in place, 40,000 tonnes of recyclables were taken to recycling depots. By 2010 the number had increased to 70,000 tonnes.” Recycling has become so easy that 97% of Calgarians report that they recycle “some of the time” or “all of the time”, diverting almost 40% of residential waste from Calgary area landfills.

With the implementation of the Blue Cart recycling program came an expanded list of recyclable materials and an increase in the number of options for consumer recycling. BluPlanet Recycling and Green Start Initiatives are two companies that have formed to collect recyclables from multi-family residents. And Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (ABCRC) has increased the number of beverage recycling containers around the province through its’ “Don’t Be a Tosser” campaign.

Both BluPlanet Recycling and Green Start Initiatives offer no-sort recycling services for people in multi-family units like condominiums and townhomes, so that they can recycle with the same ease as those living in single-family homes. Devin Goss, co-founder of BluPlanet, says, “No sort recycling programs are three to five times more successful than sorted recycling because people need it to be easy.” He also stresses that The City of Calgary does not have any plans to implement a Blue Cart program for multi-family homes, relying instead on people taking their recyclables to community depots. This creates an opportunity for businesses like his to make recycling more convenient for people who are not served by the Blue Cart program.

Over its two years in business Green Start Initiatives has seen consistent growth in its multi-family clientele. Kevin Davies, president and CEO, says, “The growth in recycling among multi-family and commercial enterprises illustrates the increasingly mainstream adoption and integration of environmental practices. Green is no longer a fringe or grassroots idea”. He also notes that recycling has become a mainstream market trend that has been driven by the consumer mindset that recycling is an everyday practice.

If you watch TV you have probably noticed the clever ads ABCRC has been running, spoofing the ways in which organizations try to increase people’s will to recycle. Out of home recycling can be difficult due to a lack of bins or inconvenient locations. The “Don’t Be a Tosser” campaign is increasing access to recycling bins where they are most needed by allowing people to suggest new locations for beverage container recycling bins. The location is then reviewed and, if it is approved, an actual bin will be placed there. Todd Blevins, co-creative director at Trigger Communications who is responsible for the ads, says that,”90% of the locations suggested to date have received bins, resulting in more than 800 bins being placed throughout Alberta.” This program is in part responsible for the increase in beverage container recycling rates from the low 70s to nearly 85% in the last 3 years.

Recycling is important and diverting waste from our overburdened landfills is necessary, but research (and common sense) shows that this can only be the beginning of a comprehensive waste reduction strategy. A waste composition study conducted by The City in 2010 showed that 57% of landfill waste from a single family home is food organics and yard waste such as grass and leaves. Although organics are completely biodegradable under the right conditions, they do not decompose properly when in a landfill because they don’t get the required oxygen. Instead methane – a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide – is emitted from the scraps.

The City of Calgary’s Waste & Recycling Services has conducted public opinion research regarding an organics collection program and will be presenting its recommendation for a pilot program to Council this fall. If approved, organics collection will help The City achieve its goal of diverting 80% of waste from landfills by 2020.

1. Make sure to recycle everything you can either through the Blue Cart program or community depots. Rinse out all containers, group plastic bags together in one large bag, and place shredded paper in a clear bag. Click here to confirm which items are recyclable or call The City at 3-1-1.
2. If you don’t live in a single family home or a community depot isn’t a convenient option, consider a recycling service like BluPlanet Recycling or Green Start Initiatives. Both are REAP Members which means they are locally owned and sustainably operated. Visit their websites to obtain a quote.
3. Suggest a location for a recycling bin at http://dontbeatosser.com and help increase the number of collection bins in the province.
4. The City is always looking for support and feedback from residents regarding new programs. Call 3-1-1 to share your opinion about an organics collection pilot and keep an eye on www.calgary.ca/waste for additional opportunities to get involved in the future.
5. In the meantime, set up your own compost. Green Calgary has a variety of indoor and outdoor options for any circumstance and all of the proceeds go to support environmental initiatives in Calgary. Click here to learn more.

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