Raven Recycling could begin reopening a portion of its public drop-off site for cardboard and two types of paper in the coming days.
The decision comes as the recycling firm is working towards reopening to the public after largely shutting its doors last month due to COVID-19.
While Raven has continued collecting commercial cardboard, e-waste, residential paper recycling for customers of the Whitehorse Blue Bins and office paper, the public drop-off (with the exception of e-waste) and bottle depot has remained closed.
Though deemed an essential service, Raven has stated they opted to shut to the public in order to protect its staff and the public. Joy Snyder, executive director at Raven, said recently efforts are underway to look at how it can reopen safely and in an April 27 interview, she confirmed that will likely begin later this week with the acceptance of cardboard and two types of paper waste — white office paper and mixed colour paper (such as newsprint, magazine paper, etc.) at the drop-off.
“We’re ready to start with that,” she said, noting exactly what day it will be reopened is still being determined, but will be published on Raven’s website and social media pages when that decision’s made.
She pointed out Raven officials have determined how the cardboard and paper can be handled without staff having to put their hands on it. She noted staff will be equipped with face shields and gloves. The cardboard and paper can sit for a few days before staff use Bobcats to collect the material without touching it and get it to the machinery to get it ready to be shipped down south. She also noted that the drop-off can be done without Raven staff and the public required to interact.
With recycling depots closed to the public, the Whitehorse landfill has been accepting cardboard in general household waste as part of its response to COVID-19.
City of Whitehorse environmental coordinator Sarah Preiksaitis said there’s no data on how much cardboard has been coming into the landfill, but did note that overall staff are noticing “significantly more”.
Previously, an additional fee was charged if cardboard was mixed in with household waste loads.
More precise data on how much cardboard is making its way to the landfill won’t likely be known until next year.
Preiksaitis explained recycling centres provide a report to the city each year showing how much material was collected and shipped out. Officials will be able to compare the 2020 data with prior years showing the difference in cardboard amounts to give the city an idea of how much ended up in the landfill. While residents can include cardboard in household waste now, officials are asking that those who are able to, to store their cardboard and paper until recycling centres reopen for drop-off.
As Raven gets set to start accepting cardboard and paper again, its larger reopening will happen in later stages as officials look at safe ways to collect other recyclables. Snyder said she’s hopeful the bottle depot can reopen in a couple of weeks, but that will depend on what measures can be established for the health and safety of the public and Raven staff.
“We’re going to have to change protocols,” she said.
Along with developing new operating procedures and exploring how to reopen in the face of new realities, Raven is also working on its own data collection.
Officials, she said, wanted to look at the impact of COVID-19 on waste management. A survey was developed that is now available on Raven’s website at https://ravenrecycling.org/ focusing on how residents are dealing with their recycling during the pandemic.
The questions ask whether people are storing or landfilling their recyclables (breaking that into refundables and non-refundables) as well as how long those who are storing recyclables are willing to do that and other related questions. Residents have until May 4 to complete the survey.
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