Whitehorse Daily Star

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Raven recycling president Heather Ashthorn

Soft plastics no longer taken into recycling stream

The Raven Recycling Society is adjusting to the Yukon government’s decision to stop accepting soft plastics in its recycling stream.

By Chuck Tobin on September 21, 2023

The Raven Recycling Society is adjusting to the Yukon government’s decision to stop accepting soft plastics in its recycling stream.

The government notified recyclers on Aug. 25 that beginning immediately, it would no longer accept soft plastics.

“Unfortunately, southern plastics recyclers that receive Yukon’s recycling will not recycle any bales of plastic containing soft plastics,” says the government’s notification to recyclers.

“Though recycling brokers will ship mixed recycling baled, any bales contaminated with soft plastics are sent to southern landfills or incinerators.

“Moving forwards, all bales or bags must only contain stamped rigid #1-7 plastics.”

The Department of Community Services did ask the recycling depots to place a temporary hold on transporting any plastics to Whitehorse for processing, where possible.

This two-week time frame will allow for the Whitehorse recycling depots to sort out the soft plastics at this time, says the notification. It will also ensure transportation is not wasted on material that may need to go to the landfill.

The notification says the government realizes the changes are disappointing and may take some time to implement.

Raven Recycling notes it was the non-profit organization’s decision to stop accepting soft plastics for recycling.

Meanwhile, Community Services is planning to create a public information campaign to explain the removal of soft plastics from the recycling stream.

The government is also planning to reach to the individual recycling depots to see what steps need to be taken and how best Community Services can support the depots in the change.

“We appreciate your co-operation in this operational change to turn away soft plastics,” says the government’s advisory.

“Please be assured that this decision is made in best efforts to ensure that recyclables transported out of Yukon are truly recycled and not sent for incineration of landfilling.”

There are many forms of soft plastics, including plastic bags, food pouches, chip bags, bubble wrap, plastic envelopes, film food wrap and any stretchable plastics.

In an email to the Star, Raven recycling president Heather Ashthorn wrote that Raven is disappointed with the decision to remove soft plastics from the recycling stream.

“We are still assessing this,” wrote Ashthorn.

“Raven has set up our sort line to remove soft plastics from the hard, and we are hoping the soft will taper off over time to help keep the cost of recycling the hard plastics as low as possible.

“One look in the plastics bunker at Raven reveals that there is still a lot of soft plastic in the mix.”

Ashthorn notes the commodities market is always changing, but that Raven currently pays $125 per tonne for brokers to take the mixed plastics.

There is also processing and transportation costs on Raven’s end. She estimates the total cost of processing non-fundables is approximately $600 per tonne.

Raven, she said, is waiting to see what the government will do with its regulations regarding soft plastics, which are expected in 2025.

Ashthorn said Raven has looked for alternate processors but so far has not found any.

Mixed plastics are presenting a challenge across the board, she said.

While some provinces are addressing the issue through regulations, the Yukon’s regulation regarding extended producer responsibility is not yet in effect.

As a result, she pointed out, there is no obligated funder or process for dealing with soft plastics.

Ashthorn said Raven remains hopeful the Yukon regulations will present a solution and soft plastics will be able to be transported south again.

Comments (2)

Up 93 Down 6

Yukoner on Sep 21, 2023 at 2:15 pm

First glass, then styrofoam, now soft plastics.. may as well just give up and bring it all to the dump. Recycling up here is more of a virtue signalling feel good process than actually productive.

Up 82 Down 6

My Opinion on Sep 21, 2023 at 1:34 pm

We are just too far away to ever make this at all viable. Raven was set up to deal with this stuff, and even they realize it is just not viable even with the millions put into it by government. Remember when glass was accepted there? People washed bottles and jars, cleaned off the paper and glue, removed the lids to have it recycled. Well it was crushed and went to the dump. In the Vancouver area they have all the plastics, news print and glass that they will ever be able to recycle, they definitely don't need ours. If people are concerned about our carbon footprint then we will stop shipping all this stuff south. More logical would be to incinerate it here to make power or heat.

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