Valley Waste launches province’s first Styrofoam curbside recycling program

Kirk Starratt kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca
Published on November 24, 2014

KENTVILLE - That Styrofoam packaging brought home from the grocery store could become anything from a CD case to a flower pot. 

Valley Waste Resource Management took a step recently that will help conserve the capacity of landfills, reduce transportation costs and provide a product that will be used in many types of manufacturing.

The province’s first foam polystyrene, or Styrofoam, curbside recycling program was launched in Kings County Nov. 19 in partnership with Scotia Recycling Limited.

Valley Waste general manager Ross Maybee said the project has been about two years in the making.

“We’re proud to be the first region in Nova Scotia to offer curbside collection of Styrofoam, or EPS as they call it, expanded polystyrene,” Maybee said.

 

How it works

In what’s called a densifying process, a forklift hoists a cage full of recyclable foam polystyrene and dumps it onto a conveyor. The conveyor feeds the Styrofoam into a densifier, which compacts the material into rectangular blocks. The blocks of condensed polystyrene are then stacked on pallets and wrapped for shipping.

Valley Waste communications co-ordinator Andrew Garrett said the waste authority saves money by not having to transport Styrofoam, which is incredibly light before the air is removed, to the landfill in Chester. This will also help conserve landfill capacity.

“It doesn’t densify well in the landfill,” Garrett said. “We see long-term savings over this project.”

Garrett said there are markets for the recycled polystyrene. A lot is shipped to China, for example, and it’s used to manufacture a wide array of items, including window moulding, flowerpots, CD cases and much more.

“There’s actually a big demand for it,” he said.

 

Taking action

Kentville Deputy Mayor Mark Pearl, the Valley Waste board chairman, said that “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to helping the environment.

“I think today’s initiative is just another step in the accomplishments that the board has embarked upon,” Pearl said, adding that representatives of the nine member municipalities that fund Valley Waste are always trying to do more to meet the authority’s mandate.

Krista Friesen, Canadian Plastics Industry Association vice president of sustainability, said there are many types of polystyrene containers and packaging that end up in homes. This material is a valuable resource as recycled content in new products, she said. As an industry association, they want to see as much material as possible recycled and put back in the marketplace. It’s hoped that this sort of program will be set up in other areas of Nova Scotia as well.

 

Possible through partnerships

Scotia Recycling president Dwight Whynot said the seven-year partnership with Valley Waste has been “remarkable.” Working together to put programs such as this in place has helped implement the province’s waste diversion strategy, he said.

The provincial Department of Environment is among the main supporters of the project. Kings South MLA Keith Irving, a former Valley Waste board chairman, said this kind of “collaboration, innovation and drive” would help achieve the goal of reducing solid waste disposal to 300 kilograms per person.

“This is a day of recycling leadership and I want to congratulate and thank those who saw what recycling foam polystyrene products would mean to the sustainability of the solid waste resource system, to our diversion rates and to residents,” Irving said.

The program, he adds, will create jobs in the Valley. He’s hoping more communities will add Styrofoam recycling to blue bag programs.

Whynot said things “have really come together” as staff experiment with the new equipment and “try to make that perfect product.”

Friesen said they were proud to be involved in the initial development of the program.

“Based on our experience in other provinces, we were able to provide information and support on communication and educational resources as well as technical advice on the densifiers and market support for the end product of the polystyrene foam,” she said.

To watch a video of the foam polystyrene densifier in action, visit www.kingscountynews.ca.

 

By the numbers…

 

-       It takes approximately eight cages, measuring six feet wide, five feet deep and seven feet tall, full of recyclable foam polystyrene to produce a half-tonne pallet of densified recycled material.

-       Industry estimates indicate that every person generates approximately one kilogram of Styrofoam per year. With approximately 85,000 people within Valley Waste’s jurisdiction, the potential exists to remove 85 tonnes of Styrofoam from the landfill every year through the recycling program.

-       The program has a $60,000 start-up budget, with 80 per cent of the funding coming from the Resource Recovery Fund Board and the remaining 20 per cent being shared by Valley Waste, Scotia Recycling and CKF Inc. The processing equipment cost approximately $40,000.

-       Trial runs of the recycling process began in September. As of Nov. 19, approximately five tonnes of Styrofoam had already been recycled through the initiative.