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VIDEO: We're so bad at recycling the Regional District pays penalties over it

When we fail at recycling, The Central Okanagan's Solid Waste Supervisor likes to think it comes from good intentions.

"I think people want to recycle as much as possible," said Cynthia Coates, "which can sometimes be a problem."

The problem is that instead of recycling, she says some of us are 'wish-cycling'.

"It looks like it's recyclable so I'll put it in and I hope it gets there," said Coates, summarizing the mindset.

The result is a contamination rate of about 12% of what's going into our blue carts.

<who> Photo Credit: RDCO

"Some of it is material that should be taken to a depot, such as soft plastics and the rest of it is simply not recyclable," she explained.

"It's garbage, it's scrap metal, it's construction material, it's books, so we want to get that stuff out of there."

It means more work at the recycling depots and fines from Recycling BC.

"We had about $55,000 in surcharges last year," she said. "For having stuff in our carts that don't belong."

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia <who> depot-only recycling

Still, a lot of the material that we're mistakenly putting in the cart is recyclable, it just falls into that depot-only category.

You have to set it aside and take it in yourself.

"There's a lot of depot-only stuff," said Coates.

"Not just the packaging depot stuff, there's batteries and light bulbs and electronics and small appliances. You can really recycle a lot of stuff."

Central Okanagan residents are encouraged to check the RDCO website, or the Recycle Coach App, to help you sort out those items that leave you scratching your head.

Pizza boxes are permitted in your recycling cart, as long as they are reasonably clean.

"Lots of them have a liner in them," Coates points out. "You throw that out and that's absorbing a lot of the grease."

One new thing in recycling is that paper, including shredded paper is welcome in the blue cart, but people are asked to put it in cardboard boxes or paper bags.

With Christmas on the way, Coates reminds us that wrapping paper is fully recyclable if it's actually paper.

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

"Maybe when you're shopping, avoid foil-type wrapping because that's not recyclable," she explained.

Bows and ribbons are not recyclable, so people are encouraged to save them for next year.

We have until the new year to smarten up on what we're putting in the garbage.

The Regional District is planning an audit early in 2024, to get an updated idea of how much of our garbage is made up of stuff we should be recycling.

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