With blue bins being delivered to Melfort residents this week, Melfort’s multi-stream recycling agency is worried about its future.
Plus Industries has been the city’s largest recycler since the late '80s. The agency has depots located around the city and provides jobs for people with intellectual disabilities. General Manager Lanny Baerwald said the move to curbside collection was completely driven by council and not by local residents. Their funding from the city totals more than $50,000 annually, he said, and sustains 16 jobs at Plus Industries.
“The community didn’t initiate this,” Baerwald told northeastNOW. “This was completely driven by the desire of certain members of council to have blue boxes in the community.”
The city’s funding to Plus Industries will remain in place for 2018, though Baerwald said what happens next year is still not known. He said his organization will continue to work with city staff and council, but wished their concerns were taken more seriously prior to the program's implementation.
“It’s unfortunate city council didn’t listen to us, but at this point we’ll continue to work with them and see if other opportunities are made available,” Baerwald said.
At the time of council's vote on the proposal in February, Mayor Rick Lang said the city held discussions with Plus Industries and will continue to do so.
Contamination is a huge issue for companies taking the recycling, Baerwald said, and he believes the issue will be a constant problem with residents looking after their own recyclables.
“Once people start throwing glass in the blue boxes, that’s the main contaminant and there is no way to get it out," he said. "The Chinese have said to places that export cardboard and paper that they are done accepting garbage.”
Plus Industries does accept glass and sorts it themselves, Baerwald said. Most clear bottles and jars are sold to a company in Moose Jaw and used in reflective highway paint, while certain types of glass are used for other items.
Mayor Rick Lang said the convenience factor for residents likely will influence Plus Industries’ programming and potential future funding.
“If curbside pickup impacts their recycling program to any great degree it’s also going to impact the grant they get," he said. "That grant is in place as an aid for recycling."
The city appreciates the work Plus Industries does, Lang said, noting the city is open to new ideas and would consider funding any proposals which demonstrate benefits for residents.
“There are possibilities for them to earn that grant in other ways if they can come up with other services they could offer to the city,” Lang said.
The City of Melfort’s Facebook post announcing the launch showed mixed reactions. Several residents said they were happy with the curbside program, but others voiced their concerns for Plus Industries.
“Too bad you're taking away from Plus Industries,” one user said.
Another post came from a parent whose son is employed by the organization.
“I'm complaining about this because it takes away jobs from my son who is special needs and works at Plus Industries,” she wrote.
Residents will start receiving their blue bins this week and a collection schedule will be provided along with a list of what items can be placed in the bins for pickup. Collection will start next week.
Editor's Note: This story was updated Wednesday, April 4, 2018 to correct an error. A previous version said city funding supported jobs at SARCAN, while the city, in fact, funds the positions at Plus Industries.
On Twitter: @ClarkStork
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