Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure committee is moving ahead with a plan to recycle “clamshell containers” — like the ones which hold berries and store-bought sandwiches — as well as plastic egg cartons and bakery trays.
A recycling plant will be built for the city next March to take on the new load.
Toronto has been lagging behind other cities like Ottawa and Calgary, which already recycle clamshell containers.
While the city has been developing a project to recycle the plastic containers for over a year, a spokesman for Toronto’s waste management department explained that the program had to be held back until the city could find a buyer for the recycled products and make the containers consistent.
“People would go crazy if we sorted (plastic) and then put them back in the landfill,” Jim Harnum, General Manager of Solid Waste Management Services.
“We want to sell it to somebody so that they can reuse it and make a different product.”
Once they had a buyer, the waste-management department had to ensure that food packagers used the same type of plastic — polyethylene terephthalate — for their containers.
Without consistency, recycling the containers would be fruitless since the end product wouldn’t hold together.
The recycling project was spurred on by a set of letters from students at Jackman Avenue elementary school. The students wrote to the city’s waste-management department protesting the fact that the clamshell containers couldn’t be recycled.
At the time, the city responded by saying it was in the process of planning changes for its sorting plant so it could deal with the containers.
The city has since congratulated the students for helping to prioritize the issue.
“If we start talking about this, people’s eyes gloss over. But when you have an interesting story where kids are involved in this, now people want to listen to that story,” Harnum said.
A pilot program began this year through which 50 per cent of the clamshell plastic containers are processed at Toronto’s Dufferin recycling plant.
The remainder will be recycled once the new plant is built, though Harnum recommends dropping the containers into the blue bins now.
The plastics used to add up to 2,000 tonnes of garbage in landfills each year.
Solid Waste Management Services will advertise the new policy over the coming weeks.
Still not recyclable are the black-bottom plastic takeout containers commonly used by restaurants.
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