There’s many myths about recycling out there – we’ve debunked a few common misconceptions so you know how recycling in the Yukon really works!
Myth: Biodegradable plastics can be composted or recycled.
Biodegradable plastics are often a mix of plastic and an organic material that breaks down. These materials break down into smaller pieces of plastic under specific conditions but never break down into soil and return nutrients back into the earth. For that reason, biodegradable materials cannot be composted! They cannot be recycled either because of the organic material mixed into the plastic. Biodegradable plastics must be thrown in the landfill.
Certified compostable materials have the following logos and can go in the Whitehorse municipal compost facility:
Myth: Raven Recycling is highly funded by our municipal and territorial governments.
This is a common misconception. In fact, our funding comes from a myriad of different sources. Yes, we receive diversion credits from the City of Whitehorse and Yukon Government based on the amount of material we divert from landfill. This money is not guaranteed, and is not enough to cover the true costs of recycling.
Raven relies on its other enterprises and contracts to remain financially viable. Much of our revenue comes from the Beverage Container Regulation, and in fact the revenues from this program subsidize the recycling of low value plastics and paper which we must pay to ship out of territory. We also get revenue from service contracts (Recycling Club for Kids, E-Waste Processing) and our scrap metal sales.
To learn more about our sources of revenue, visit our About Us page.
Myth: Raven sends mixed plastics to the landfill because they are not worth anything.
While it is true that mixed plastics have a very low value on the global market, Raven is committed to recycling as much as possible. We pay southern recyclers to accept our low value materials such as film plastic and other mixed plastics (#3-7). In order to ensure our materials are worth something we have to maintain a low rate of contamination. This means we do throw out a small percentage (<10%) of materials (wet paper, food soiled containers) that are too contaminated to recycle.
This is why we are constantly encouraging our customers to keep materials clean, dry and sorted. The less contaminated materials are, the more material we can recycle.
All our plastics are shipped to a processor in Greater Vancouver, Merlin Plastics. This processor handles all materials from the RecycleBC EPR program. High value plastics such as #1 PET and #2 HDPE are washed and pelletized before being sold as material to make new products. Mixed hard plastics are also sorted, cleaned and processed into pellets. Plastic bags and overwraps (LDPE films) are also cleaned and processed to be sold as material for various applications, including new bags and plastic lumber.
Unfortunately some of the soft plastics dropped off at Raven are currently unrecyclable. Rather than landfill these items, we ship them to BC with our other soft plastic. Unrecyclable flexible plastic packaging (ziplocs, pouches, etc.) is used as engineered fuel, primarily in the production of cement. While this is not ideal, it is a cleaner burning fuel than coal, and it keeps these items out of our local landfill. To learn more, visit our Where Does My Recycling Go? page.
Myth: Shipping recycled materials south and overseas uses more resources than are saved by recycling the material.
Making recycled plastic uses up to 87% less energy than making virgin plastic. The same goes for most other recycled commodities (e.g. aluminum: 95% energy savings versus virgin material, paper: 68% energy savings vs virgin material).
On top of this, shipping these materials for recycling diverts them from our local landfills, which saves even more resources. The cost and footprint of opening a new landfill is high – the faster we fill, the bigger the bill.
We would have to ship our materials immense distances to use more energy than we are saving by recycling them.
Myth: Burning materials to make electricity is easier, cheaper and more efficient than recycling.
Incineration of recyclable material in Waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities is often touted as a solution to our waste problem, and some would even call it “renewable energy.” While emissions standards for incinerators have vastly improved, the fact is that burning our waste is inefficient, expensive, environmentally harmful, and a waste of precious resources.
Incinerators are costly to construct, and once built rely on a steady stream of waste “fuel.” It is more expensive than landfilling, and it’s the most expensive method for generating electricity. These facilities usually require a baseline tonnage that if not met can be a tremendous financial risk to a community or municipality.
WTE is also a deterrent to recycling and composting, as WTE facilities need energy-rich materials to create electricity. By burning recyclable materials we are encouraging continued extraction of virgin resources, which is the largest source of emissions in product manufacturing. Recycling conserves 3-5 times more energy than WTE generates.
The environmental footprint of incineration is also significant. WTE facilities emit particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, dioxins, furans, carbon monoxide, mercury, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Many of these chemicals are persistent, bioaccumulative (they build up in tissues of living things), and toxic. Some are also carcinogenic and some are endocrine disruptors. Fly ash and bottom ash, the two solid residual products from incineration are highly toxic and must be disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill, another environmental risk.
Finally, WTE does not generate significant electricity, and a small jurisdiction such as Yukon would not generate enough waste to make a WTE facility worthwhile. WTE facilities are extremely difficult to site, and they create far fewer jobs than recycling, reuse and composting.
Get more info on the drawbacks of WTE here: Waste of Energy: Why incineration is bad for our economy, environment and community.
Have a question about recycling? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 667-7269!