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Calgary community recycling depots ‘convenient’; now under review

A steady stream of Calgarians rolled into the community recycling depot at 126 Avenue SE Wednesday afternoon, dragging cardboard boxes and plastics from their vehicles and dumping them into the large green bins.

This service, in the parking lot of the area Home Depot – and the 26 others around the city – could hit a bin of its own.

Community recycling depots are on the city’s list of sub-services now under review after council’s approval at a Tuesday meeting. Five other services were identified for review at the same meeting. The purpose of the review is to determine both need and efficacy of these services.

Lynette Polson was one of the people using the facility and she said she uses it to drop off her recycling at least once a week.

“There’ll be an awful lot of stuff being transported to the landfill,” Polson said.

“For me this is a convenient thing that seems to work for everybody.”

Polson said the bins are always full and whenever she’s there, there’s a parade of cars and recyclers with their stack of refuse.

“Why fix something that’s not broken?” Polson said.

City report shows massive decline in amount recycled

According to a Waste and Recycling Services reported delivered to a city council committee in March, the community recycling depot program costs the city about $4.9 million annually, with $4.5 million coming from operating cash and another $400,000 coming from revenue from the sale of the recyclables.

The bins are still serviced once or twice per day by four trucks, seven days a week. In addition, two garbage trucks are sent to deal with garbage cans in the area.

The annual tonnage brought in from the community recycling depots plummeted in 2009 with the introduction of the city’s Blue Cart program, dropping from just over 40,000 tonnes to just under 20,000 tonnes. In 2018, the tonnage had dropped well below 10,000.

The council committee was told that the majority of users (57 per cent) were from single family homes and used the service for oversized cardboard and extra recyclables that didn’t fit into the blue bins.

Though it’s now under review once again, a recent optimization project reduced the number of depots by eight, the number of trucks by two and saved $1.4 million.

Melanie Cooke, manager, Strategic Services at the City of Calgary, told committee at the time that there’s still value in the service and it contributes between 10 and 15 per cent of the overall recycled material.

“It was determined that Calgary’s CRD network remains and important service for Calgary residents with excess and oversized recyclables, as well as some small multi-family complexes and businesses looking to comply with our multi-family and ICI recycling bylaw,” she said.

No community recycling depots, no recycling?

Polson said without the depots she’d be inclined to just put her deliverables in the trash.

“I wouldn’t go out of my way to go and find a new recycle centre,” she said.

“I can’t begin to understand why they might eliminate this. It works.”

The reviews don’t necessarily spell the end of a program, however the city documents show that part of the review is to determine whether the city should provide the service or not.

The reviews are expected to be complete in November for city budget adjustments.