December 21, 2011

'Tis the prime season for waste generation

As published in The Erin Advocate

How shall we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Blue Box Recycling Program in Wellington County? A big party might be fun, but perhaps a bit wasteful. Maybe we could just kick our recycling efforts up to the next level. You know, like, go for the gusto, or the whole nine yards, or maybe we could give 110 per cent.

Actually, since only about 85 per cent of recyclables are being captured in the curbside programs, even a small increase would be good news.

Recycling fans will be glad to learn that three new types of material will be accepted in blue boxes as of January: milk and juice cartons (remove caps, but do not flatten), drink boxes (remove straws, but do not flatten) and frozen food boxes (flatten, and put in an unflattened box). I'll bet some people didn't even know these items were previously prohibited – or perhaps some were sneaking them into their blue boxes.

Of course, being responsible with your waste involves a lot more than dutifully filling the blue box. It requires an effort to reduce the volume of trash and recyclables we generate. County residents sent 12,800 tonnes of garbage to landfill last year, and recycled 5,000 tonnes through blue boxes. It is most important to reduce the first figure, but desirable to also reduce the second one.

It may require an occasional trip to the Belwood Transfer Station – think of it as a scenic drive and a chance to re-live the good old days of lining up at the now-closed Hillsburgh Transfer Station.

You might start with your natural Christmas tree. Urban curbside collection of trees will be done in the week of January 9, but all residents can bring them to the transfer station until January 31. There is no charge, but food bank donations will be accepted.

"Holiday celebrations and gift packaging dramatically increase household waste," says Solid Waste Chairman Don McKay, in the department's current newsletter.

Remember that wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbons and bows cannot be recycled, so it is worth trying to re-use them. Greeting cards can be recycled, as long as there is no plastic, fabric or metallic surfacing.

If you get new clothes for Christmas, consider donating some of your gently-used older ones at the Thrift Stores operated by East Wellington Community Services. Or, if you are going to Belwood, drop them at no charge in the transfer station textile bins. Other items like footwear, stuffed animals and linens are also accepted, and picked up by the Canadian Diabetes Association for reuse and recycling. Find out more at

Belwood also has a Reuse Centre, where you can leave household items like furniture, toys, luggage, dishes, electronics, books and sports equipment. You pay a small fee, the same as you might pay to dump the items in the waste bin. Instead, they go to a building where people can browse through the goods. It's like a garage sale, but everything is free to take.

The main website for waste services is at, where you can get lots of tips on diversion programs. There is also an online re-use service at, where items are also free.

For metal, tires, appliances, electronics, large batteries and motor oil, it may be most convenient to drop them at Erin Auto Recyclers on 17 Sideroad – all at no charge, except for freon appliances. But if you have to make a trip to Belwood with bulky material, you can save some money by bringing your regular garbage with you as well. Pack it into plain garbage bags and you will only be charged $1 per bag, as opposed to the $1.75 cost of the county's yellow pre-paid curbside pick-up bags. It's also $1 per bag (or equivalent) for wood, brush and scrap metal.

Some people save up their household hazardous waste for the once-a-year drop off day at Centre 2000, to be held in the spring instead of the summer this year. But you can reduce that collection by bringing household batteries to any county library. Belwood accepts some hazardous material, specifically motor oil and filters, antifreeze, household and automobile batteries, aerosol cans and propane cylinders, at no charge.

Don't mix hazardous materials with regular trash, or dump them down the sink or toilet. Old medications and vitamins are accepted at many pharmacies, and old paint is accepted by some retailers. Medical sharps require special precautions – check with your pharmacy or the county website for instructions.