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What’s the big deal with plastic bags?

Take all the guesswork out of garbage collection by purchasing the free Cumberland County Solid Waste app, displayed here by Brenda Rioux, waste reduction coordinator at the Cumberland Joint Services Management Authority.
Brenda Rioux, waste reduction coordinator at the Cumberland Joint Services Management Authority.

Rewind four months to Sept. 12, 2017 when the headlines in our local paper were: Cumberland Central Recycling Facility destroyed in fire. The destruction of our Recycling Facility certainly presented us with several challenges to say the least, like “what are we going to do with our recyclables?”

Residents and businesses continued doing a great job recycling, which was made evident by the growing pile of recyclables we were stockpiling, but we no longer had a place to sort these materials. 

Fast forward to January 2018 and Cumberland Joint Services signed a two-year contract with Scotia Recycling Ltd. to process our materials at their plant in Kentville. 

Recyclable materials collected from residents and businesses are delivered to Little Forks, loaded onto a trailer, and then delivered to Kentville for processing.  This was our only option and it now gives us time to plan for future operations.  

You may have noticed that recycling has made its way into the news a lot lately on a provincial and even global level. There have been stories about the ability of recycling facilities to market plastic film (grocery bags, baggies, plastic wrap), stories about the province potentially banning plastic bags, and stories about how plastic film may be landfilled in certain areas of the province.  All these stories have a common theme, plastic.  

The marketing issue started months ago when China announced they will no longer accept plastic film which left facilities scrambling trying to find other buyers for this material. To make matters worse, plastic film shouldn’t be stored outside for long periods as this reduces its quality. 

As time passed, the amount of film stockpiled just kept increasing, the quality decreased, and there was nowhere to send it. 

This resulted in the minister of environment granting permission for a West Hants Landfill to bury film from Halifax. Again, plastic is making the news.  

Try to think of something that you have purchased lately that wasn’t wrapped in plastic, it’s hard isn’t it? That’s because plastic is everywhere. 

As I mentioned earlier, the minister announced that he is considering banning plastic bags and personally, I have no issue with this. I think we use too many of them, they are everywhere - you go to the store to buy a litre of milk and they want to put it in a bag. 

But we also need to be realistic. Banning plastic bags is not going to solve the problem.

Single use plastics are a small part of a much bigger issue - we have too much stuff. 

We need to start thinking about the purchases we’re making and the packaging that goes with them. What happens to that new shirt we just had to have? You wear it a few times, donate it, and never think about it again. 

Donating is great, someone gets use of something we don’t need or want anymore but eventually that article of clothing is most likely going to end up in a landfill. 

And all those bags we end up with after getting groceries! Just think about how many bags your family goes through every week and multiply that by the population in Cumberland County- we have millions of bags every year…. millions! 

And yes, some are recycled but some also end up in the ocean, our ditches, and our beautiful countryside. So instead of using plastic bags, why not bring your own bags, use a box or a tote, or even something as simple as refusing the bag for a simple purchase can make a difference.  I think at the end of the day we need to think about the purchases we are making, and the packaging associated with them and when you’re offered a bag for that liter of milk, just say “No Thanks.”

Not sure where something goes?  Try our online sorting tool, visit www.cjsma.ns.ca or call us at 902-667-5141.   Also “like” us on facebook at “Cumberland Central Landfill”.

Thank you for helping keep Cumberland Clean.

Brenda Rioux is the waste reduction co-ordinator for the Cumberland Joint Services Management Authority.

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