KEMPTOWN, N.S. – A growing stockpile of plastic grocery bags at the municipal Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Kemptown has officials scrambling to find a way to dispose of them.
“The warehouse is now at capacity and an interim solution must be found now,” a staff report to council says.
There are currently 13 truckloads of plastic bags being stored at the facility “with no market for this product in the foreseeable future,” the report says.
And the bags are accumulating at about two truckloads per month, said MRF manager Jann McFarlane.
“The majority of it would be grocery bags,” she said, while adding that other recyclable items are also stored in the warehouse and available space is quickly being used up.
Nonetheless, McFarlane stressed that residents should continue recycling their plastics.
“I think it’s very important that we don’t change the message (of recycling) because markets can change quickly,” said. “We still want to encourage residents to place their grocery bags in recycling.”
People are also strongly encouraged to use reusable bags when shopping.
“That is definitely the number-one way, reduce first.”
Until recently, the Municipality of Colchester had been selling its plastics as a recyclable product to China. Last year Chinese manufacturers imported 7.3 million tonnes of the waste plastics from developed countries in North America, the U.K., the EU and Japan.
In July, however, the Chinese government announced a ban on imports of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste, including waste plastics, by the end of this year.
That has left the municipality with no market for material, which under provincial regulations cannot be landfilled.
Other municipal units are facing the same problem and, last month, the Colchester Solid Waste Department invited peers from other jurisdictions and representatives from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment (DoE) to the Kemptown facility to discuss the situation.
“The concerns were the same for all municipalities,” the report said. “Recycling facilities were becoming overloaded with product that suddenly had no home.”
Council has directed staff to send a letter to the DoE requesting assistance in locating alternative markets as well as implementing a temporary lift of the ban on the landfilling of plastics.
At this point, however, the ban remains in place, said department spokesperson Heather Fairbairn.
“The Department is aware of the market challenges created by Chinese import restrictions and we are reviewing the matter,” she said.
As of Thursday, the only disposal request the department had received was from the Halifax Regional Municipality, “…and we will be making a decision on that early in the new year,” Fairbairn said.
“The department would consider requests from other approval holders if they are received.”