Since the 1990s, Chinese recyclers were buying unsorted recycling from all over the world. Albertan recyclers capitalized on the strong market and developed “single-stream” recycling systems—where consumers conveniently combine their recycleable waste (paper, cardboard, plastic) all in one bag or bin.
In 2018, China closed their border to all recycleable waste that is not sorted to 99% purity. This new standard is almost impossible to achieve using single-stream recycling systems, because consumers contaminate single-stream bins despite ongoing educational efforts, and centralized sorting facilities can’t sort materials that are fixed together (think of a delivery parcel with a paper shell and plastic insulation).
What happens to our waste if Chinese recyclers can’t buy it? Albertan recyclers are getting creative to keep landfills from getting busier. Simply upgrading from single-stream to dual-stream (fiber and plastic collected separately) eases the burden on sorting facilities and can produce higher quality recycled products. Multi-stream collection (consumers separate their waste at the source) remains the ideal method of producing clean, marketable material. Edsonites have keenly practiced source separation since 1990.
The Edson Recycle Depot has longstanding ties in recycling niche markets and guarantees that all recyclable waste is processed into recycled goods, including low grade paper and clamshell plastics. In 2010, 40% of Edson’s waste was diverted from the landfill via source-separated recycling. Visit edsonrecycle.com/depot to learn more about recycling in Edson and district.