District of Muskoka to raise awareness on waste diversion options for residents

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The District Municipality of Muskoka operates a residential municipal blue box program that focuses on diverting packaging and printed paper waste from landfills to protect our natural environment and recover valuable resources. A recent letter to the editor published in the Gravenhurst Banner on April 21, raised concerns and questions about the District’s current waste diversion program and its ability to recycle certain materials.   The District values this opportunity to address any questions and clarify its current recycling program’s guidelines.

“Muskoka has a current waste diversion rate  which is approaching 50% and  ranks within the top 18% of municipalities in Ontario,” said Fred Jahn, Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works at the District Municipality of Muskoka.  “We are proud of our waste diversion program in Muskoka, but we are continually working hard to improve our program and reduce the waste going into our landfills.”

While many neighboring municipalities have chosen not to accept plastic film (bubble wrap, grocery bags, etc.), empty aerosol cans and empty, dry paint cans, Muskoka is proud to accept all optional municipal Blue Box material under the Waste Diversion Ontario program.   The many types of material Muskoka accepts differ from region to region, depending on volumes, quality and market availability. For a full listing of program guidelines and collection/disposal information visit: http://www.muskoka.on.ca/en/live-and-play/Waste-Management-in-Muskoka.aspx

Even with these aggressive diversion programs in place, the District recognizes that some materials are more challenging to handle than others. This includes the plastic “boat” wrap and other hard plastics (such as plastic toys, often created in other countries with mixed or unknown plastics) referenced in the letter to the editor. Boat shrink wrap is recyclable, but it is considered a commercial product. The used wrap often contains wood, strings and other debris that can contaminate Muskoka’s acceptable residential material at the curb that residents work diligently to sort and set out correctly. In order for commercially consumed material such as boat shrink wrap to be recyclable, this material must be baled together and kept separate.   As such,  residents are encouraged to return the wrap directly to their marina (when possible) where a commercial arrangement may have been established with a private waste management company to safely and appropriately recycle the material.  If that is not possible, the District  encourages residents to contact a waste management facility to arrange to drop off and avoid contamination that would prevent recycling.

In terms of hard plastics (tools and toys), the issue can be more complex.  Plastic toys and tools are not always recyclable, due to the various types of plastic that are used to make them. When it comes to plastic furniture and plastic toys – these are manufactured with so many different types of plastic, that the recycling industry cannot process them and unfortunately they are destined for disposal.  This is a challenge not unique to Muskoka, as these items are not accepted in any municipal program in Ontario and simply cannot be recycled and processed into a new product.

“We are pleased that the proposed Bill 151 Waste Free Ontario Act has passed second reading and once passed will place responsibility on the producer and manufacturer for managing disposal,” explains Commissioner Jahn.  “When it comes to hard plastics, the best interim solution is to encourage residents to focus on re-using these materials or reducing the amount that they consume until provincial legislation is in place to help us better address these difficult materials.”

Please note that the plastic packing material (or “packing styrofoam” ) that is also referenced in the letter to the editor is in fact recyclable in Muskoka but cannot  be accepted at the curb due to the high potential for contamination.  To be recycled, please deliver this material to the Bracebridge (Rosewarne) Transfer Station or the Port Carling (Eveleigh) Transfer Station. The District initiated a pilot project in an effort to deal with this difficult material as it can be used to make new products.  However,  this material requires no contamination whatsoever to be successfully recycled.

Community engagement activities are planned for later this spring and summer to continue to help raise awareness of waste diversion options in Muskoka and how we can work together toward a waste free Muskoka.  For more information or questions, please contact the Engineering and Public Work Department at  (705) 645-6764 or via email at publicworks@muskoka.on.ca.

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