After decades of using, and throwing away, tonnes of plastic grocery bags, a lot has changed at New Brunswick waste facilities since 2018 when China and other Asian countries stopped accepting most of Canada’s recycling.
Depending on where you live in the province, plastics like grocery bags are now either going straight to the landfill or are being sold to recycling plants in Canada and the eastern U.S. to make more plastic products.
In Moncton, the 16 tonnes of plastic bags that arrived each month had no where to go for nearly 2½ years, but in November 2019 a buyer was finally found.
“That was a huge win for us,” said Gena Alderson, waste diversion co-ordinator for the Southeast Regional Service Commission and Eco 360.
“Luckily for southeastern New Brunswick, we didn’t have to landfill any of that material — we were able to stockpile until we found that new market.”
According to Alderson, 800 tonnes of plastics have been shipped out to be recycled in the past year.
Greater Moncton enacted a bag ban in October of 2020, and although Alderson doesn’t have any figures, “anecdotally, there probably are less,” bags entering the facility.
The name of the company that accepts the commission’s soft plastic is, according to Alderson, a trade secret.
She said recycling is, “a competitive market,” but the company the commission is selling to has plants in Canada and in the northeastern United States.
“They turn it into pellets and then those are used to make new plastic products,” like more plastic bags, said Alderson.
Brad Janes, manager of marketing and public education at Fredericton Region Solid Waste, said the region has consistently had a market for its recycling because its product is clean and properly sorted.