The Town of Cape St. George, NL, is a leader among small rural municipalities with its comprehensive curbside recycling program and resourceful approach to reuse and composting. The town aims to reduce the overall waste tonnage shipped to landfill by 40 per cent (from 300 to 180 tonnes) and, through the program, has already achieved a 25 per cent reduction.
Created primarily to minimize waste transportation costs, the program is helping the town adjust to provincial changes that will consolidate many local dumps into two regional landfills fed by a number of transfer stations. Once a week, the town's newly acquired recycling truck picks up garbage, recyclables and kitchen waste in separate bags. Recyclables go to the local recycling centre (built with support from the federal Gas Tax Fund) and are shipped to the regional recycling facility. The town also runs a community composting program.
Cape St. George has learned that innovation can maximize efficiency and create added benefits. For example, tin cans are crushed along with scrapped cars and sent to the steel mills, freeing up space at the recycling facility. Styrofoam packaging is shredded and used to insulate water pipelines, and proceeds from recycled beverage containers supports local school breakfast programs.
Over 25% reduction in waste brought to transfer station in first year
All beverage containers are recycled
Kitchen waste diverted from landfill for composting
Fewer GHG emissions linked to transporting waste
Up to 50% reduction in waste transfer costs
Town-operated waste collection is more economical than a private service
School breakfast program funded through recycling
Community pride in town's leadership
Student involvement in raising awareness about the program
Less littering and dumping in natural areas
Although 25-30 per cent of the waste stream is compostable, diverting all of it for composting requires additional infrastructure. The town currently uses a Cornell hot box system that works well only in the summer. Year-round composting could only be achieved by scaling the system to the regional level, which the town is exploring.
The province limits recycling to bottles and jars that contained liquids, so the town has nowhere to send many of its glass containers.
Loading the recycling truck takes only four hours a week; a part-time job that is difficult to staff.
Be flexible and willing to make changes as the strategy is implemented. The town originally planned to pick up garbage and recycling on alternate weeks, but switched to weekly pick-up for both to accommodate residents.
Work with the community to implement common-sense solutions rather than wait for advice from consultants.
Keep the community informed with an initial communications strategy, followed by periodic reminders.
Consider expanding municipal staff duties to include waste collection, rather than hiring new staff or privatizing the service.