Yes, plastic bags are actually recyclable in Cornwall

The City of Cornwall's acting waste management supervisor has admitted the city does recycle plastic bags and other recyclables marked with the No. 3 and No. 4 recycling symbol, even though it doesn't promote it. The admission happened during a council meeting on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Despite its Recycle Coach phone app and one-card mailers saying no and the common belief it’s not possible, Cornwall’s acting waste management supervisor says, yes, you can recycle plastic shopping bags.

Cornwall Coun. Justin Towndale questioned whether the city was recycling plastics marked with a recycling symbol No. 3 and No. 4 if they’re put in blue boxes after mention of it showed up in a consultant’s report.

“To confirm, we can put PVC No. 3 and LDPE No. 4 into our blue bins now for collection?” Towndale asked at Monday night’s council meeting.

“That’s correct,” Acting Waste Management Supervisor Dave Kuhn said reluctantly.

Plastic recycling symbol No. 3 is polyvinyl chloride or PVC which is items like piping and blister packaging. Recycling symbol No. 4 is low density polyethlyene or LDPE – the plastic is used in shopping bags, the rings around beer six-packs, frozen food bags and bread bags.

LDPE is the same material in those blue recycling bags that people use to collect their recycling. Kuhn says they try to discourage people from using them, opting for an affordable blue box, but it’s hard to break people’s habits.

Coun. Carilyne Hebert countered that she thought they weren’t promoting the recycling of PVC and LDPE as it wasn’t “desirable” because the city doesn’t make money off its collection. She described bales of plastic film at the landfill that “just sat there until someone wanted to take it off our hands.”

“We aren’t promoting it and the city does not recover the cost to process the material by any means. But we are saving the $151 a tonne going into the landfill site,” Kuhn answered.

The stance on No. 3 and No. 4 plastics appears to run counter to a plan to encourage more recycling and for more waste diversion. With a limited number of years left on its landfill, the city has been trying to encourage more people to use their blue bins.