RDCO says 8% of residential garbage is recyclable plastic


Monday was Plastic Pollution Awareness Day and with the pandemic adding mass amounts of personal protective equipment to the problem, the conversation around how to change course is more important than ever.

Last Friday, the province approved single-use plastic bans in four communities: Surrey, Nanaimo, Rossland and Esquimalt.

They join five municipalities that already have bans.

Across Canada, less than 11% of used plastic actually gets recycled.

Here in Kelowna it's no different.

“It ends up in our environment, probably one of the biggest impacts. Plastic degrades very slowly when it gets out into the environment and it takes up some really valuable space within our community's landfill,” said Travis Kendal the Manager of Engineering Services with the Regional District of the Central Okanagan.

According to a recent study by the RDCO about 17% of residential garbage taken to the Glenmore landfill through curbside pick-up is plastic and just under half of that, or 8%, could have gone into an existing recycling program.

RDCO Waste reduction Facilitator Cynthia Coates said “it can go into either our curbside carts or it can be taken to a depot. The rest of it is plastics that just aren't included in any recycling program right now. It could be a plastic product. Maybe it's a laundry basket or a car seat.”

Chemicals added to plastics can be absorbed by human bodies, which means plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into the groundwater we drink.

It's no surprise that plastic pollution also affects local wildlife and ecosystems.

We spoke with President of the Okanagan Forest Task Force Kane Blake, who knows about that all too well.

“It effects all different ways, like in streams with fish and things like that just like it would in an ocean. The animals that drink out of the water can have plastic floating right past them and maybe accidentally drink a straw wrapper or something. It's a common problem and it's everywhere.”

Without people like Blake removing garbage from the backcountry, that plastic could sit there for tens to hundreds of years.

According to Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, a ban on single-use plastics is not something the city is currently considering.

He said their top environmental priority is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and it would make most sense for all municipal partners in the region to adopt the same bylaw.

Once the federal government rolls out its nationwide ban sometime this year the Regional District will consider a ban within the Central Okanagan.

Plastics bans usually focus on bags, stir sticks, 6-pack rings, plastic cutlery and straws and difficult to recycle take-out containers but now we have disposable facemasks and other personal protective equipment

A study by the journal Science shows if standard practice after lockdown include one disposable mask per day, globally, the pandemic could result in consumption and waste of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves per month.

Not only that but Individual choices during lockdowns are also increasing plastic demand through take-out and home-delivered groceries.

So what can we do in the meantime?

Checkout one of Kelowna's zero-waste refill stores, use paper or cloth bags for grocery shopping, swap out your single use items for reusable glass or stainless steel alternatives and learn to recycle properly.

For a full list of what can and cannot be recycled and where

Go to the RDCO website.