The Township has been advised by Peterborough County that they will no longer accept Styrofoam products in the recycling stream. Residents are advised that these products, which include those pesky packaging peanuts and meat trays, should now be put into the garbage.
One of few jurisdictions to ever recycle this material, Peterborough County began to do so in 2003, but the cost of this action is now prohibitive, according to Virginia Swinson, Waste Diversion Section Manager for the City.
The decision is a consequence of a deteriorating market, which now pays only 2 cents per pound, down from a high of 18 cents, for the material. Purchasers of Styrofoam prefer large packing items like those protecting new appliance and electronic purchases over the smaller items such as meat trays. While Styrofoam is very light, it is also quite bulky, making it difficult and expensive to ship, a process that is becoming more expensive as the County has had to ship the material to more distant markets for disposal. The diversion has now become economically unfeasible, costing $440 per tonne to collect before it is shipped for sale.
Due to the light weight of the material, Swinson explains that the material represented roughly 31 of 19,000 tonnes of material which is diverted from the landfill due to recycling each year, so the additional landfill weight will not be significant. She also expects the introduction of a consistent blue box program across Ontario, which would automatically remove this product from the recycling program.
“We needed to look at both sides: the environmental consequences as well as the financial consequences,” Ms Swinson explained. Acknowledging that this decision seems out of step with current pressure to reduce garbage across the County, Swinson argues that the answer is to pressure manufacturers and retailers to avoid the use of this particular packaging material in favour of a more environmentally friendly material, or ideally, less packaging altogether.