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City of Salmon Arm
Box 40
500 2 Ave. NE
Salmon Arm, BC V1E 4N2
Ph: 250.803.4000
Fx: 250.803.4041
Hours: 8:30am - 4:00pm
Why Blue Bags?
Bagging Requirement and Enforcement
blue bag
The bagging requirement has been in place since the inception of the Curbside Solid Waste and Recycling Program in 2011. It is stipulated in Bylaw 3845 as well as in the City’s Program Guides. It is also stipulated in the City’s contract with Progressive Waste Solutions. At the outset of the program, Council offered residents a grace period of one year and directed that the Bylaw not be enforced so that residents could adjust to the new program. For the period of September – December 2012, Progressive Waste Solutions was instructed to still accept loose recyclables, but to leave warning stickers for residents who were not complying with the bagging requirement. At the start of 2013, Progressive Waste Solutions was instructed to stop accepting recycling that is not bagged.

Comparing Cart, Bag, and Blue-Box Systems
Research suggests that blue bag and automated cart-based systems have the highest capture rates for recyclable materials vs. a blue box system. Blue boxes can have higher contamination rates than bag or cart systems, due to poor sorting and weather contamination.  Blue boxes can also create problems with litter and scatter due to wind. If items are loose in the truck, if a contaminant such as glass gets in the entire load is contaminated and may be discarded. A bag system allows workers to easily see contaminants and either: leave the contaminated bag at the curb or; (if the bag has reached the sort facility) discard the contaminated bag. Contamination due to weather is a concern with paper and metal products. When these products become wet, moldy, and/or rusty, the quality of the end-product is reduced. Paper that is wet before it is processed is a particular problem: it sticks to machinery at the sorting facilities, causing jams and delays; water and mold reduce the strength of paper fibers - if these fibers are too weak or small, they are flushed out as sludge in the pulping process and are, ultimately, land-filled.

Environmental Impact
A bag system can actually reduce environmental impacts by both reducing the amount of plastic we use, and reducing truck idle time. While the carts used for automated systems may be re-usable, the amount of resin used to produce a cart is equivalent to approximately 14 years worth of blue bags for one household (at 2 bags/week, every week). A study has shown that manual collection of bin recyclables can take 14% longer than collection of bagged recyclables. Workers spend more time at the curb sorting out contaminants, and time is required to return the bin to the curb. By using a blue bag system, idle time is reduced and as a result, fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and our environmental impact are also reduced. 

Choosing a Blue Bag System
The City chose the blue bag system after careful research and the receipt of the collection rates. A blue bag system was chosen over an automated cart system primarily due to cost, but also due to convenience. An automated cart system would have cost residents approximately $40+ more per year (based on proposals) than a bag system. In addition to the $40, costs could have been incurred for cart purchase / replacement / maintenance. Residents who place 4 bags bi-weekly (average of 2 per week) pay approximately $30/year for bags. Automated cart systems require special placement in order for the trucks to be able to collect them properly, and can be difficult to manage in winter conditions.

Program Design and Worker Safety
The curbside program is designed for a blue bag, manual service. It is important that residents bag their recyclables even if they are using a closed cart or can, not only for the reasons listed above (scatter, contamination, equipment jams, idle time, etc.), but also for equipment protection and worker safety. Loose items can jam the in hopper inside the trucks. Carts and large cans can be difficult to manage using manual collection and loose items can injure workers.

Sources
Douglas, Dave. “Curbside Collection Comparison for Blue Bags, Boxes and Carts – a study of containers.” (Presentation Slides, MWA Fall Workshop, White Oaks Resort, October 27, 2011). VisionQuest Environmental Strategies Corp. Accessed March 1, 2013.

Alderden, Jim.  “Bag-based recycling: a solution for the collection blues?” Resource Recycling, October 1992. Accessed March 1, 2013.