Recycling – It’s Not Free!

Economy street sign intersecting with environment street sign.One of the biggest misunderstandings about recycling is the cost of those services. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I moved from <insert town> and recycling was free!” Now, please do not get me wrong. I like free stuff as much as the next person, but when we start talking about value, I’m totally on board with paying for something that’s going to last. And one thing I desperately want to last is this planet. You may think I’m being coy or over dramatic, but I assure you this is not the case.

Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but neither garbage nor recycling services are free, no matter where you live. These services fall under a huge umbrella of solid waste services and for most governments, there’s usually 7 figures on that budget line. It’s easy to get confused, or forget that this exists, because it’s bundled into your taxes. And it’s not in your field of vision like that pot hole at the end of the street. This is good for you because you don’t have to whip out your debit card every time the garbage truck comes down the road. But sometimes this is tricky because we start viewing these services as free when they’re anything but.

Peace River residents produce approximately 860 kgs of garbage per person each year which, is generally equivalent to a large moose or bison. Let me increase the font for you on that (you can add the sound effects!):
860 kgs of garbage per person, per year!

While most of the costs of local recycling and garbage are taken care of through your taxes, a lot of other recyclable materials like appliances, computers, tires and paint, charge a small fee you pay when you purchase the item. This fee is then used to fund the programs that collect and recycle them.

So what do these fees get us? Well they get us thousands of provincial drop off locations like DC Campbell Recycling, Chetwynd Lions, the FSJ Bottle Drop and the Eco-Depot where you can recycle literally tonnes of extra items that you can’t put in your blue box if you have one. As you can imagine, staffing, processing and transportation of these materials costs money. I wouldn’t work there for free and I bet you wouldn’t either.

Additionally, recycling these materials properly gets us a much cleaner planet. This is good especially if you like having food or clean water. Electronics from your toothbrush to your cell phone and your coffee maker to your laptop all have heavy metals in them that can be reused, sometimes indefinitely. The same is true for lead acid batteries!  This, I hope you’ll agree, is much better than burying them off in a landfill where the risk of contaminating soil or water is real. In 2015, more than 200,000 electronic items were collected for recycling in the PRRD. We all get a high five for that!

While it is true that recycling costs more than landfilling, this doesn’t mean you should give up on recycling. It’s the opposite in fact. Recycling extends the life of our landfills which isn’t very exciting until you start trying to plan a new one and people freak out over how close it’s going to be to their house. It also keeps all sorts of hazardous materials away from soils, lakes and rivers that our food supply relies on. No big deal right?!

I will spare you more of the random facts floating around my mind and sum it up with this: If it has value and is important don’t complain about paying for it. You don’t expect to get a free meal from a restaurant, don’t expect to get free environmental services. The hippy’s graduated from Birkenstocks and free love to a solid business model decades ago. I’m sure we can all agree that participating in this economy and saving the planet from a micro-plastic fueled doom is worth it!