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Non-recyclable coffee cups contaminating Toronto blue bins

Last Updated May 10, 2018 at 7:09 pm EDT

Did tossing that morning coffee cup in the recycling bin give you a feel-good buzz?  Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet.

Canada Fibers recycles 250,000 tons of material from the Toronto and other municipalities every year. It’s an impressive number, but experts say residents could be doing better.

Of all the material that winds up at the plant, 25 per cent of it should not have been put in the blue bin in the first place, says Jim McKay, general manager of Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services.

He says too many homeowners are careless about what they toss into recycling bins, including coffee cups that are not recyclable.

The inside of the coffee cup has a wax or plastic liner to prevent leaking. But that material prevents it from being recycled.

“The lid, if it’s white or any other colour than black, is recyclable,” says McKay. “If it’s black it’s not. But the coffee cup itself is not recyclable.”

Pam Seatle brought her own recycling to Canada Fibers to see what mistakes her family is making. See how she did tonight on CityNews at 5 & 6.

Another big problem is food waste.

Mark Badger of Canada Fibers says some of the most damaging materials are organics left behind in peanut butter, yogurt, and mayonnaise containers, which can leak out and render a ton of other materials unmarketable.

“I would say that if we could focus in on organics and decrease the amount of food left in (containers),” he says. “By all means, give your yogurt container a little rinse before going into the box. You make sure stuff that could have been left in there isn’t rendering a batch of other material unrecyclable.”

Badger adds electronics and certain other materials should not go into the blue bin either.

“We get everything from paint canisters and hoses to electrical cords,” he says. “They’re a problem not just because they’re non-recyclable but because they get in the equipment, cause jam-ups, and jam-ups cause the machines to get broken.

“Next thing you know we get a whole bunch of down time that costs money.”

McKay says revenue from selling recycled material has dropped and the expense of sorting contaminated material has gone up, which could mean a $9-million shortfall next year — which could mean higher rates for Toronto homeowners.

“That’s about a three-per-cent rate increase on the solid waste rate budget that would have to be required in order to offset that $9 million,” he says.


Related stories:

Blue bin blunders could cost Torontonians 3 per cent solid waste fee hike

Cities raise concerns over coffee pod waste

Contrary to popular opinion, most coffee cups still aren’t recyclable