January 18th, 2021

Dangers of recycling

By Mabell, Dave on January 18, 2020.

Helium and propane cylinders are among hazardous items some residents are mistakenly placing in the Citys blue bins. Steve Rozee, waste and recycling manager for the City of Lethbridge, says thats putting workers safety at risk. Herald photo by Dave Mabell

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


With thousands of Lethbridge residents making good use of their curbside recycling blue bins, the city’s Materials Recovery Centre is busy.

But employees’ safety is at risk when anyone puts dangerous materials into the recycling stream.

That’s the message from Steve Rozee, waste and recycling manager for the City of Lethbridge.

And those dangerous items can be as small as a battery pack, he points out – or the size of a propane tank and larger.

“Twenty to 30 tonnes of recycling comes in every day,” he says.

And every day the recovery centre’s workers find unsuitable, possibly dangerous material in the mix, he says.

Rozee says they sometimes discover smelly organic material – rotten food, animal feces, even baby diapers – that should be placed in the black bins for disposal in the landfill.

“Anything you would consider gross,” he says, should not be placed in a blue bin.

There’s a detailed list on the Waste Wizard Tool on the City’s website, Rozee points out, showing what can be placed in the blue bins or black bins, or handled in another way. Bottles and glass, for example, should be taken to one of the three recycling depots – in the north, south and west parts of the city.

Residents can also call 311 for the information they need.

Small items like batteries are often tossed into the garbage. But some types – including lithium-ion batteries found in electronic devices like laptops, cellphones and power tools – have been identified as the cause of fires in the landfill, he says.

They can be safely handled when consumers take them back to the store when they’re buying replacements, or when they’re taken to the City’s waste and recycling centre.

Cannisters of compressed gas – propane, helium, acetylene – are a particular hazard. Rozee says one which was dumped into the landfill ruptured and went airborne. Fortunately it didn’t hit any customers or workers at the recycling centre, but it ruined the hood of a car parked a distance away.

Rozee says heavy machinery and equipment is used to help sort, process and bundle recyclables. And when dangerous items like canisters of compressed gas, scrap metal or glass get into the recycling stream, it can damage the equipment – and put workers at risk.

All of these items have come into the recovery facility, he says, and could have caused serious cuts and burns to anyone working there.

He reminds residents they can dispose of those – and any items not acceptable for blue or black bins – for free on Saturdays at the recycling centre, north of the city on 28 Street North.

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