What Happens When Waste Isn't Sorted Properly?

Posted by RecycleSmart Team on Mar 10, 2021 3:00:22 PM

At RecycleSmart we help commercial businesses manage, track, and properly dispose of their waste and recycling materials from Victoria to St John's - but what happens when a recycling bin ends up with contents that does not belong in it?

Honestly, we need to admit “it happens” we are human and every now and then non-recyclables do make their way into the wrong bin. But we should all remember that there is always something you can do about it! 

Let us start with the first question, what do these recycling sorting processes even look like? Well, unfortunately the standards are not yet consistent across Canada, but the theme is your recycling is sorted by humans and machines based on what material it is comprised of. There is no magic recycling elf, it's real people sorting your sortables! 

According to the Manitoba Non-For-Profit, RecycleEverywhere states that the top three most common contaminants found are:Screenshot 2021-02-21 152247

In Canada's largest city of Toronto, black take-out containers have been deemed non-recyclable but have been ending up in recycling facilities due to confusion. A report done by CBC News states that the recycling machines used at the sorting facility where Toronto materials are sent for processing cannot recycle the black plastic and even if they could the end market for this material is limited. With all these different standards most of the time people who live in their own hometown can have trouble finding where to place different types of waste and recycling materials - not to mention when travelling to a new municipality where the waste sorting system is different. Many Canadians work in one municipality and live in another which makes sorting at home and sorting at work a whole different sorting game!

3 major issues that arise waste and recycling that was not properly sorted: 

Harm to Employees

  • If there are any sharps or any other hazardous material not properly disposed of it can put hard working people at risk! 
  • Things can explode! Yup that spray can or battery that you "wishcycled" can become a real hazard. 

Damage to the Sorting Machines

  • In this case greasy substances can end up in recycling, mixing with cardboard or paper (ex. Grease covered pizza boxes or half full yoghurt containers) these dirty items can clog up sorting machines and make other recyclables in the same batch non-recyclable.
  • Costing time, money and human power to fix, which makes the business of recycling less economically viable.This occurs when the sorting machines are shut down due to repairs or staff are spending their time re-sorting the waste and recycling that comes in. In the world of waste & recycling time is money, and it all starts with proper waste diversion! 

Recycling becomes......garbage! :(

  • If recycling is too contaminated (that's a fancy word for not sorted very well) entire loads of material can be sent straight to landfill or incineration as it's too costly to sort it all out. Did you know that in many recycling sorting plants send as much as 20% of the material they process to landfill? If you want to geek out on the numbers here is a handy report...

So, what can you do about sorting properly? 

Since many locations across Canada have different recycling standards you'll find yourself in a situation where figuring out how to sort it out could become a “headache and a half”. Thankfully the Waste Wizards at RecycleSmart have a solution. We have the WasteWizard tool located in our Client Area to help you figure out what goes where in an efficient manner. Oh, and it's also available as a handy smartphone app so you can sort on the go....just don't text and walk - that's dangerous!

Screenshot 2021-02-21 151334

Helping you shave the valuable minutes off trying to find out where to place your waste and recycling is what we do. You can use the extra time to post cool videos on Tik Tok or just take some time to relax. We can all do our part to increase waste diversion and recycle many valuable resources. One person’s trash can be another person’s recycled product!


Topics: technology, smart recycling, zero waste, Sustainability, Canada

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RecycleSmart Team Member, Manny

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