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City Seeks Greater Resident Cooperation to Improve Recycling Contamination

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The City is asking for greater cooperation from residents when it comes to recycling properly, following a recent report showing consistently high contamination rates over the past three years.

Contamination occurs when material that is not accepted for collection (under Recycle BC guidelines) ends up in curbside recycling.

“As a collector under the provincial Recycle BC program, the City is obligated to meet a contamination target rate of 3%,” explained Glen Farrow, Streets and Environmental Services Manager. “But a recent report shows the City’s average contamination rate for curbside recycling over the last three years has been over 10%.”

When the City fails to meet the target rate, the result is a financial penalty from Recycle BC, in the form of a reduced payment to the City for its collection services. 

“In 2022, the City received twelve penalties totaling $60,000,” said Farrow.

Audits performed by Recycle BC show that the most common contaminant in the City’s recycling is residue (e.g. garbage), followed by books, clothing, durable plastic products (e.g. plastic toys), wood, scrap metal and electronics.

Audits also showed a significant amount of recyclables were “unsortable” because they were bagged or nested (i.e., a plastic container inside a box). Recycling should be placed loose in carts and bins. 

In addition, audits identified a significant amount of material that is only accepted for recycling at Recycle BC depots, such as glass, Styrofoam and flexible plastic packaging (i.e. plastic overwrap and crinkly bags).

In 2022 City staff inspected more than 7,000 recycling carts. The majority of carts (89%) were categorized as either excellent or good, meaning minimal contamination.

In these cases, the City’s approach is to leave a notice (called an “Oops tag”) informing residents of any mis-sorted items and to leave educational material outlining what is accepted in residential recycling.

The remainder of the inspected carts were categorized as either fair or poor, meaning high contamination–often a significant amount of garbage or hazardous material.

A new enforcement strategy will be launched for the very small percentage of carts with the highest amounts of contamination. Instead of a warning letter, the new approach will allow staff to suspend recycling collection if direct contact and clarification with the resident is not successful.

“It’s so encouraging to see most residents doing their best to follow the guidelines for curbside recycling,” said Farrow. “Unfortunately, warning letters for the really bad offenders have not been successful. The new approach will put some responsibility back on the resident to resolve the issue."

“Our goal is to work together with all residents to reduce contamination as much as possible, and to avoid further penalties from Recycle BC,” stated Farrow.

The City has a number of tools and resources to help residents understand what is accepted in residential recycling, including recycling guides, recycling bags with icons, cart decals, a smart phone app (search Waste Wise Kamloops), a waste sorting game, and a website with detailed information.

For more information, residents can visit, or contact the City’s Civic Operations department at 250-828-3461 with recycling questions.