Why Bother to Recycle?

Contributed by Kim Kasasian

Please note that everything the Bowen Island Recycling Depot takes is BANNED from garbage. Bowen’s garbage goes to Vancouver, so we have to abide with their bans go avoid substantial fines.

Visit the BIRD website for a detailed list of banned items.


Batteries are very toxic.

The main reason to avoid tossing batteries in the trash is that they produce most of the heavy metals that are found in household waste, including lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, copper and mercury. Despite their small size, batteries account for much of the toxic material in landfills.Re-melting metals uses 45 to 90 percent less energy compared to making metal from ore.

If batteries end up in landfills, these metals can seep into the ground water and harm local plants, animals and even humans. (Those tiny watch/hearing aid batteries are particularly toxic). Recycled batteries are made into new batteries and stainless steel. Recycling batteries saves water, energy and natural resources. BIRD sent 775 kg of batteries for recycling in 2012.


Worth $40,000 to Bowen groups.

This section of the depot is run by various island groups who provide some benefit to our community. They sort and pack the bottles that you donate, and reap the rewards when they are taken to the bottle return in North Vancouver. This section of the depot puts around $35,000 back into our community. Many thanks are owed to Bowen Waste who generously help the groups transport the bottles to the mainland.


Cardboard is recycled into new boxes and packaging, paper towels and cat litter.

BIRD separates corrugated cardboard from the mixed paper. No waxed cardboard boxes please because when processed it both spoils the mix and bungs up the machines.


Reclaim valuable metals and keep toxins out of landfill.

Cell phones and other electronic devices contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and brominated flame retardants. Many of those materials can be recycled and reused; none of them should go into landfills where they can contaminate air, soil and groundwater.

They also contain valuable metals: gold, silver, palladium, copper; tin, zinc and platinum. Recycling just one cell phone saves enough energy to power a laptop for 44 hours. Cell phones are either rebuilt or recycled.


Recycling a soda can saves 96%of the energy used to make a can from ore and produces 95% less air pollution and 97% less water pollution.

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours, or run a laptop computer for 11 hours, or vacuum for 6 hours.


Reclaim valuable metals; keep toxins out of landfill.

Although electronics waste only accounts for about 4% of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as 70% of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40% of all lead.

Electronics also contain other heavy metals that are potentially hazardous if leached into the environment. Electronics are made from valuable natural resources, including metals, plastics and glass – all of which require loads of energy to mine and manufacture. BIRD takes electronics and small household and outdoor electrical appliances, both plug-in and battery driven. When you buy an electric appliance you pay for it to be recycled in the future.


Currently, glass gets broken down into a sanding medium and may also be used as fill.


Ink and toner cartridges are recycled through a North America-wide organization called Think Recycle. They are either reused or the parts are recycled.


Beware mercury content.

All bulbs are recycled in Canada. Bulbs are broken under negative air pressure and separated into their component parts (glass, aluminum, mercury, phosphor powder, plastic, ceramic and other metals). Nearly 100% of each lamp is recovered and recycled.

Glass and metals, including mercury, are cleaned and forwarded to downstream recyclers. Plastics are burned during smelting, generating energy for the system. At this time, ceramic bases are waste material. A CFL bulb contains approximately 5mg of mercury, while a 4 foot tube contains roughly 12mg. In contrast, a mercury thermometer contains approximately 500 mg, while an older mercury thermostat contains about 2,500-10,000 mg! BIRD accepts all kinds of light bulbs – including strings of Xmas lights.


Bit savings on energy materials and water.

Making new steel products from recycled steel instead of virgin ore reduces energy use by 75%, water use by 40%, water pollution by 76%, air pollution by 86%, and mining wastes by 97%.

Recycling 1 ton of steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal (or 3.6 barrels of oil) and120 pounds of limestone. Recycled steel is used to make new steel products including cars, lawnmowers, appliances, and construction materials. BIRD takes all kinds of metal except large appliances like washers (call Bowen Waste about those – 2255). Our mixed metals go to Vancouver, where they are sorted and sold. Although we take all metals, if you take any copper, brass or bronze to the Knick Knack Nook, they do a better job of optimizing its value. If you flatten tin cans it saves space in the bin.


Milk cartons are made from ‘polycoat’ – lightweight, high-gradepaperboard sandwiched between two thin layers of polyethylene film.During recycling polycoat is made into pulp and used to make new paper products such as corrugated medium (the inner layer of corrugated cardboard), liner board and household tissue products. The small amount of residual polyethylene can be screened off for use in other plastic and composite materials.

The dairy and substitute milk industries pay for a stewardship program to take care of the recycling of these containers. Whilst there is no refund value, they do get recycled. Soup manufacturers do not pay towards a stewardship program, so we cannot take soup cartons.


Milk jugs – are made from semi-transparent #2 plastic. It is a high value plastic which makes money for BIRD, which is why we separate it from the mixed plastics. It is recycled into buckets and pails etc. Stomp jugs flat – so we don’t spend our property taxes sending air to the mainland.


Save water and energy as well as trees.

Recycling paper produces 74% less air pollution , 35% less water pollution, 58% less water is required, and 64% less energy is required, compared with using virgin fibre.

Forests are being cut at the unimaginable rate of 100 acres per minute, to produce paper which is normally used and disposed without much thought. Recycling a four-foot stack of newspapers saves the equivalent of one 40-foot fir tree. And remember that one tree can filter up to 60 pounds of pollutants from the air each year. Paper can be recycled around 5 times, after that the fibre becomes too short to use.

No waxed or plasticed paper – ice cream containers and coffee cups, because when processed it both spoils the mix and bungs up the machines.


Cheap to buy but dear for the environment.

Plastic production uses 8% of the world’s oil production, 4% as  feed stock to make plastic resins and 4%
during the manufacturing process.  HDPE (detergent bottles, milk jugs, plastic yogurt containers) can be
recycled into plastic pipes, plastic lumber, flowerpots, trash cans, or bottles used for non-food applications
(eg. soaps). Plastic not only adds to landfill space and takes forever to decompose. Used plastic can end
up in the sea where it destroys sea life at an estimated 1,000,000 sea creatures per year! In the North Pacific gyre there are now 40 particles of plastic to every piece of plankton.


Recycled soda bottles can be spun to make fiber filling for pillows, quilts and jackets. Five recycled soft-drink bottles make enough fiberfill for a man’s ski jacket. Thirty-six recycled bottles can make one square yard of carpet. The energy conserved by recycling just one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 min or light a 60W bulb for up to 6 hours.


Free to you but very costly to the environment.

One million plastic bags are used word wide every minute!

‘Biodegradable’ and ‘degradable’ do not mean the same thing.

‘Degradable’ means it will break down into smaller pieces – not necessarily good for the environment. ‘Biodegradable’ means it can be consumed by micro‐organisms, resulting in water, carbon dioxide and organic matter, but only under the right conditions. Compostable bags will usually only biodegrade into non-toxic residue in the conditions provided by commercial/industrial composting facility.

Degradable shopping bags are composed of petroleum‐based plastics and feel the same as regular plastic bags. With help from a chemical additive, these bags become brittle in sunlight, with the remnants possibly biodegrading over time. Mixing degradable bags with regular bags can cause problems for the recycler, so take your own cloth bags to the store instead.



Both contain some radioactive material, and should be recycled.


Clean styro (or corn based) peanuts can be taken to any UPS store for re-use, however ours always get reused on-island by people who have online businesses. All other styro is currently garbage, though many stores will take back your styro and send it for recycling. London Drugs sends their styro to ‘Genesis’ in Richmond, where is cold pressed (therefore producing no toxic fumes) into sheets of insulation for homes.


Beware — loads of toxic mercury.

It takes only takes one gram of mercury to contaminate a twenty acre lake to the point where the fish in that lake are inedible for a full year. Mercury (as opposed to digital) thermostats contain shockingly large amounts of mercury – 2.5-10 grams! Mercury inhibits the development of the brain and nervous system. BIRD takes mercury thermostats for safe recycling.

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