LETHBRIDGE, AB – After a long process, the implementation of curbside recycling in the City of Lethbridge is just around the corner.
Waste and Recycling General Manager Joel Sanchez gave a presentation to City Council on Monday, Mar. 11, to reveal some details of the rollout plans for the recycling program that is set to begin in May.
The blue carts are scheduled to be delivered to all Lethbridge homes between April 15 and May 10, but residents might not want to start filling their blue carts immediately as the curbside recycling pick-up will not begin until all of the carts are delivered.
Depending on what part of the city residents live in, the first blue cart pick-up will happen between May 14 and the 24.
Sanchez says they’re excited to finalize details of the curbside recycling rollout to the community.
“We know our residents are eager to get their carts and now we have timelines for when that will happen.”
Along with the cart, residents will receive an information package including a user guide for the curbside recycling program, a map outlining the first blue cart pickup dates and tips for managing bi-weekly garbage collection.
These materials are also available now in the tools section of curbside.lethbridge.ca.
One of the vital parts of the curbside recycling program is the operation of the City’s new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that will sort and process the recycled materials, and the building construction is now complete with equipment installation in the final stages.
Testing of the equipment and staff training will happen over the next several weeks in preparation for receiving the first recycling collection in May.
“When collection begins, we will have the community split in two so that each week we are collecting half black cart and half blue carts,” Sanchez continued. “Based on feedback from other communities, we feel this is the most effective way to roll out the program and maintain a continuous flow of materials to the MRF each week.”
The day of the week that collections are done in each neighbourhood will not change with the introduction of curbside recycling. What will change is the switch to a bi-weekly collection because, after the first blue cart collection, residents will alternate putting out their black carts one week and blue carts the next.
The map outlining the first blue cart pickup in each neighbourhood will be delivered with the cart and is also available online at curbside.lethbridge.ca/collectionmap.
Sanchez also recommends residents sign-up for the City’s Waste Wizard tool to print off collection schedules and set up text or email reminders.
“When you receive your cart, we want to encourage everyone to take the time to read through the material provided. Understanding what goes in your blue cart and more importantly, what needs to left out, will be vital to the success of our program. We need to make sure we are only collecting clean, accepted recycling materials to avoid contamination.”
Sanchez says they’re going to have people checking on the bins to make sure there is not a significant amount of contamination.
“We’re going to be leaving tags letting them know if everything is fine, or if there are contaminates in the blue cart. If the contamination is so heavy, over 25 percent, those carts are going to be turned back, and they’re not going to be collected for that week.”
Curbside audits will be done to make sure quality is being maintained, but those won’t begin until after the program is rolled out.
Whether non-compliant households ever receive fines will be up to them, because as Sanchez explains, what they saw in Phase 1 of the program is that when you talk to the residents and you tell them the reasons, they usually didn’t know a particular material could be recycled.
“So, they go back, and they comply. I don’t see fines being a major issue because I’m pretty sure that working with the residents we will be able to achieve that. What we’re doing is when we do this, we have the option that people in the field will have a device, and we’re going to mark that house and next time for collection we’re going to check that bin again to see if they comply or not,” Sanchez stated.
Residents are encouraged to keep their user guides handy to reference while they learned the program and to visit the website often.
For residents living in apartment complexes, there isn't necessarily a curb for placing a curbside recycling cart, so different processes have been developed to collect recyclable materials from these homes. City staff, working with complex managers, will begin to phase in apartment complexes after single-family homes begin recycling this spring.
This will start with smaller complexes of less than 45 units.
“I would say we have roughly 6,000 to 8,000 residents in multi-family complexes that represents 1,200 units throughout the city. What we have decided is that multi-family will be a phased approach. We want to make sure we work one-on-one with each one of them because they have different requirements.
“Some multi-family or condo apartments will want bins, others they don’t have space. That’s why we decided we won’t be able to do this from Day 1; we wanted to make sure we worked with them first. As we deploy the carts, then we start implementing and charging the fee to them. Until then we’re not doing that, we’re holding until they get the bin or the cart.”
The additional $7/month recycling fee will be added to utility bills for single-family homes starting in May.
Multi-family complexes will not be charged until the service is available at their building.
Those residents who were involved in Phase 1 of curbside recycling will receive a letter in the coming weeks outlining how they will transition to the city-wide program. After nearly a year, this group of 900 homes and several multi-family complexes have diverted close to 90,000 kg of recyclable material from the landfill.
The City expects to divert a large amount of waste away from the landfill thanks to curbside recycling, according to Sanchez.
“When you look at the numbers that we have for the city today, roughly 24,000 tonnes a year is being collected today from the black cart,” he continued. “We expect that moving forward that number can go as low as 18,000 tonnes and we’re going to have between 6,000 or 7,000 tonnes being diverted from the landfill.”
With the light at the end of the tunnel for rollout getting closer and closer, Sanchez admits this is probably the most significant program they've done after the implementation of automated carts back in 2006.
“It’s been a lot of work, and it’s not only on the capital side. Lethbridge is probably one of the last communities in Alberta, if not in Canada, without a blue cart program and it has to some benefits. We had the chance to talk to them, and we are removing materials that have been a problem for them.”
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