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CBC Vancouver: Keeping Soft Plastics and Organics Out of Local Landfill

Published date: Oct. 30, 2013

In 2011, CBC/Radio-Canada undertook a waste characterisation study and discovered that CBC Vancouver’s diversion rate could be improved significantly by implementing a soft plastics and organics recycling program.  The study found that CBC Vancouver’s waste included about 29 per cent organics and about 15 per cent plastics.  This equated to 4.22 tonnes of organics and 2.18 tonnes of plastic being sent to landfill annually.  With the institution of a soft plastics and organics recycling program, it was estimated that the facility’s diversion rate could rise from 67 per cent to 79 per cent.  

Thus, with our staff solidly behind it, in February 2013, CBC Vancouver added soft plastics and organics to its existing program for recycling metals, cell phones, hard plastics, and paper. 

Soft plastics include stretchable plastics such as shrink wrap; plastic bags for rice, pasta and similar foods; bubble wrap; plastic shopping bags; Ziploc bags; foam wrap; and plastic strapping ─ made from petroleum which, as we all know, is a non-renewable resource.  The plastic photodegrades in light, and breaks into tiny, toxic microplastic pieces that pollute soil and water.  In landfill, plastic can take 1,000 years to break down.  In the ocean, these microplastics, or nurdles, pose a different, very dangerous threat.  Nurdles soak up highly concentrated amounts of toxic chemicals.  Marine animals that consume them can become poisoned, endure irritation or fatal blockages in their digestive systems, or starve through feeling full.  Altogether, these soft plastics present real issues, and efforts to recycle them are very important.

Luckily, with recycling facilities available in the Vancouver area for many types of soft plastics and organics, our CBC Vancouver staff set to work to put a program into effect at their broadcasting centre.  To begin with, employees partnered with a local recycling company, Urban Impact, whose success had grown out of the owner’s university project.  Urban Impact began by delivering a four-yard collection bin for the soft plastics.  Staff at first thought this much too large for their needs, but in each of the first two months of this program, they collected approximately 45 kg. of soft plastics. 

To collect the broadcasting centre’s organic waste, which includes paper towels as well as food, staff placed countertop bins in each kitchenette.  Again, employee response was very high, with staff collecting approximately 1,100 kg. of organic waste for recycling each month.  To date, there have been no complaints about odours and no increase in pest activity.

CBC Vancouver will continue this program, looking for any improvements possible.  Similar organics programs can be implemented in any of the major cities and in some of the smaller locations where we have broadcasting facilities.  A soft plastics recycling program depends on the local availability of appropriate recycling facilities that focus on that type of recycling.  As yet, the latter are somewhat rare, but we continue to investigate possibilities.

This recycling program launch at CBC Vancouver was successful from the beginning because the research groundwork and education were carefully undertaken and because our employees were fully behind the program and in favour of doing their part as good corporate citizens.  Bravo!

Quick facts

    CBC Vancouver looked for ways to raise its diversion rate.

    By adding soft plastics and organics to its recycling program, the facility could increase its diversion rate from 67 to 79 per cent.

    In each of the program’s first two months, staff collected about 45 kg. of soft plastics and 1,100 kg. of organic waste.

    This program is helping to prevent degradation to local soil, water and marine life.

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