Online shopping boom putting strain on city’s waste management system

An overall increase in recyclable products is causing issues for Calgary’s waste management system.

Recycling fees may be going up and city taxpayers may be left responsible in “picking up” for manufacturers.

With the popularity of online shopping skyrocketing in recent years and more plastic products being produced overall, Calgary consumers are dealing withy more recyclable packaging then they know what to do with.

“This past Christmas was the fullest I’ve ever seen my blue bin,” said Calgary homeowner Nate Saunders.

“We did a lot of online shopping with our Air Miles for the friends, family and kids, so there’s always a lot of packaging involved,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see how we will deal with cleaning up our own messes.”

It’s this excessive, and sometimes unnecessary, use of plastic packaging by shipping and retail companies that can cause a real issue for consumers, and city waste management.

Because of our busy, on the go lifestyles, manufacturers are regularly producing plastic products that are easy and ready to consume.

However, it’s the public buying these products that are left dealing with the actual process of recycling.

With more recyclable content coming into recycling centres city-wide, it will mean an increase in monthly blue cart recycling fees. The latest increase was from $8.30 a month in 2017 to $8.50 a month this year.

Many will remember before the Blue Bin program was implemented in Calgary and the city had supplied drop-off recycling locations where consumers could recycle their plastics on their own time, for free.

“Why should I pay a fee for something I did on my own anyway, before the blue bins?” said Saunders.

Nonetheless, drop-off recycling was not as reliable in ensuring all residences would, in fact, be recycling.

“Our goal is to divert 70 per cent of waste from city landfills in all sectors, including residential, businesses, organizations, construction and demolition by 2025,” reads a statement from the City of Calgary’s website.

China, a main importer and buyer of our recyclables, has recently imposed restrictions on their imports, which is complicating matters for the city’s 70 per cent goal.

On Dec. 31, 2017, China put a hold on accepting Canadian recyclable products and tightened quality standards due to contamination found in some of the exports.

Now Calgary is left with the question of what to do with nearly half of our city’s recyclables.

City officials say they are looking for other markets where they can ship the recyclables and for the time being, they are not worried about China’s restrictions.

It will be interesting to see how we will deal with cleaning up our own messes. – Nate Saunders

While restrictions on outsourcing Canadian recyclables will make it harder to export, it will open up opportunities for domestic recycling plans.

For more information on Calgary recycling and the Blue Bin program visit:

About Kyle Woolman 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Kyle Woolman worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.