Summer safety: City urges safe recycling for Blue Cart program
Calgary, AB – Do you know what to do with your old propane tanks? With the warmer weather at hand, Calgarians are enjoying camping and grilling on the barbeque. Empty propane tanks are one of the items that end up in the recycling facility when residents mistakenly put them in their blue cart. These items can cause safety issues for your waste collectors and workers at the recycling facility.
“Calgarians have been doing a great job recycling with 65 million kilograms of material collected annually. However, we are seeing a small number of hazardous materials such as propane tanks and needles that are a serious concern for us,” says Sharon Howland, Leader, Program Management at Waste & Recycling Services. “While these items tend to be very small in volume, they can have a huge impact on the recycling process and are hazards for our workers.”
“Pressurized tanks like propane tanks and bear spray canisters are flammable, explosive and can hold residual chemicals. Even though an item may have a recycling symbol on it does not mean it should go in your blue cart,” explains Venry Sergeant, Operations Manager at Cascades Recovery Inc. (the organization that runs the recycling facility). A safety incident with a bear spray canister last fall proved especially challenging when it ended up at the facility. It resulted in the evacuation of the recycling facility and emergency services responding when the bear spray released into the air. Sergeant was on hand during the incident and was affected by the bear spray. “I quickly found it difficult to breathe and my eyes started stinging. I knew we had to get our employees out to safety immediately,” he says.
“Another item we see is needles: everything from diabetic lancets, to Epipens and other syringes. While our recycling process is mostly automated, workers are still involved in removing items by hand and have to handle these materials,” says Sergeant. In the past, both workers and equipment have been harmed by hazardous items like needles and propane tanks sometimes requiring medical attention, emergency resources, repairs to equipment and even a complete halt to recycling operations.
Cascades Recovery and The City of Calgary are asking Calgarians for their help by recycling safely. “If we all do our part to be safe, we can prevent any incidents from happening. We want to keep encouraging Calgarians to recycle, but to always be mindful of whether they are putting the right materials into their blue cart or community recycling depot,” says Howland. “Recycling safely will make sure that we keep our workers and equipment safe, make sure the quality of the other recyclables are not affected, and improve efficiency for recycling operations.”
To help Calgarians know what to do with their unwanted items, an online search tool is available at calgary.ca/whatgoeswhere. It lists hundreds of items and the proper disposal methods and options available.