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The feasibility of implementing a disposal ban on polystyrene in Metro Vancouver O’Neill, Maegan Apr 29, 2015

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   The Feasibility of Implementing a Disposal Ban on Polystyrene in Metro Vancouver Maegan O’Neill April 29, 2015 Report prepared at the request of Metro Vancouver, in partial fulfillment of UBC Geography 419: Research in Environmental Geography for Dr David Brownstein   2  Contents  Executive Summary........................................................................................................................3 Introduction....................................................................................................................................4 Boundaries and Terms....................................................................................................................5 Methods.........................................................................................................................................6 Findings and Results  Production and Environmental Effect.................................................................................7  Recycling Polystyrene.........................................................................................................8  Survey Results……….............................................................................................................9  Barriers to Recycling…......................................................................................................10 Differing Perspectives on Disposal Bans...........................................................................12   Recommendations........................................................................................................................13 Further Study and Conclusions.....................................................................................................17 Appendix.......................................................................................................................................18 Work Cited....................................................................................................................................20     3  Executive Summary Research Question: Can a disposal ban on Polystyrene (PS #6) be justified based on economic, logistical, environmental and social criteria  in Metro Vancouver? A proposed disposal ban on PS would require  a convenient alternative stream for the material to follow that does not result in the disposal of the material in a landfill. The chosen alternative  this research paper has  focused on is recycling through source diversion. Through research, the proposed disposal ban was justified based upon economic and environmental criteria. The economic return and compression method (an efficient and environmentally sound mechanical recovery process) of recycling the material in the Metro Vancouver region  indicated that a disposal ban could be justified. However, the logistical and social criteria  pose some challenges. The logistics of a disposal ban becomes joined with the social realm when the transportation of the material is considered. PS’s light weight and bulkiness make  curbside pickup  financially challenging  for an organization to administer. One preferred solution  to curbside pick-up are recycling depots. However,  relying entirely upon recycling depots is less convenient for individuals – most notably elderly and non-mobile residents - and costly for the commercial sector. Furthermore, a redirection of all PS to existing recycling depots poses the risk of straining these depots. Considering the research findings,  a list of recommendations has been made below. These recommendations were based on literature reviews, expert interviews and survey results. ● If a disposal ban were implemented on PS, it would need to be a gradual process.  ● Further public education on the options for recycling PS need to take place. ● Depot drop off is more feasible than curbside pickup but have several logistical and social challenges. That being said, the use of depots and their locations need to be given further consideration.      4  Introduction Throughout the last few decades the importance of solid waste reduction and diversion from landfill has become a regional priority  due to the diminishing space in landfills and difficulty in siting new landfills, the  environmental hazard some of this waste pose and the overarching regional direction toward social, environmental and economic sustainability.    Under the Environmental Management Act in BC, regional districts, such as Metro Vancouver are also required to submit solid waste management plans that mirror provincial regulations to the Ministry for approval. Under these regional plans and within their jurisdictional right, regional districts have the opportunity to implement  bylaws to regulate municipal solid waste and recyclable material to achieve the goals and objectives of their Ministry approved solid waste management plan and align with Ministry regulations.  As such, Metro Vancouver on behalf of its 21 member municipalities have committed to a target of  diverting 80% of all solid waste from landfills or  waste-to-energy facilities By 2020.  One of the Metro Vancouver strategies for achieving this goal  are disposal bans. Disposal bans or landfill bans are defined as “a range of measures to prevent or restrict the disposal of waste to landfills” (Ontario Waste Management Association, 2013). Within the realm of recycling there have been  disposal bans placed upon   a variety of recyclable materials that satisfy the previously stated criteria or fall under a provincial stewardship program to divert them from disposal sites. At present and in addition to materials included in the provincial extended producer responsibility programs, seven specific materials such as recyclable paper, cardboard or green waste are currently listed as recyclable materials banned from disposal sites in Metro Vancouver. These disposal bans have proven successful in effectively reducing  waste  and 5  diverting these materials from disposal. As a result additional disposal bans for a variety of other recyclable materials are being proposed by Metro Vancouver. As such, I have focused my research on one such recyclable material - polystyrene (PS). Throughout this paper I will determine whether it is economically, logistically, environmentally and socially viable to ban PS from regional disposal  sites in Metro Vancouver.   Boundaries and Terms  Terms and Definitions: ● Polystyrene (PS): There are two varieties of PS that I will be referring to in this report. The first being the PS used primarily in food packaging and the second being the one used as cushion packaging (also sometimes referred to as expanded polystyrene) for items such as electronics or appliances. Images 1 and 2 below demonstrate the visual difference between these two types of PS. For the sake of simplicity, when I say PS, I am referring to both food and cushion packaging. If I need to refer to a particular type of PS I will specify exactly which variety I am referring to. ● Disposal Ban: A ban on the disposal of a material at a regional disposal site . The diverted material  may either remain in circulation (be recycled) or be reused for a specific purpose – such as in the production of a new product,  generating energy or producing compost.  6   Image 1 (left) a food packaging container made of PS Source: www.genpak.com Image 2 (right) PS in its cushion packaging form Source: www.advanced-pp.co.uk  Boundaries:  Due to the limited time frame, a  focus was needed in regards to who would be most affected by the proposed disposal ban. As such, I’ve decided to target how it may affect single family homes and commercial businesses.  Methods My method consists of three parts: survey, expert interviews and literary review.  The survey portion was done by my community partner at Metro Vancouver prior to my research. It was conducted by material bans enforcement officers stationed at the Metro Vancouver disposal sites  over a  six week period. A total of 22,566 visual (non-intrusive) inspections were conducted during which time the enforcement officers would observe and visually determine the percentage of each load being disposed that was composed of cushion packaging PS, food packaging PS or other forms of PS. The survey therefore helped identify what types of PS were being disposed at these disposal sites . Furthermore, the inspector noted 7  additional information such as the type of vehicle depositing each load thereby determining the sector (SF, MF or ICI) it originated from. This type of information aids in targeting  a proposed material ban.   To gain a local perspective I relied on expert interviews with organizations within Metro Vancouver. Due to time constraints, I was only able schedule interviews with recycling organizations and organizations that help producers adhere to corporate environmental goals.  The third method used depended on a review of academic literature. In the beginning the literature legitimized the possibility of recycling PS and offered a background understanding of what a disposal ban is in a broader sense. Later  as interviews were conducted,  specific challenges  to PS recycling in Metro Vancouver were revealed. It was therefore beneficial to target literature that applied specifically to the criteria that Metro Vancouver applies. Findings and Results Production and Environmental Effects PS is manufactured “by the polymerization of a styrene monomer, obtained from fossil fuel products: ethylene and benzene” (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation). This means that styrene monomer molecules interact in a chemical reaction to create the complex product that is PS. PS is therefore an artificial product and does not biodegrade if left in a landfill. Relative to its light weight it takes up a large amount of space once it is disposed (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation). 8  Recycling Polystyrene  There are a number of methods used to recycle PS. Some of these include the use of natural solvents made from orange rinds, thermal recycling and mechanical compression (Kan & Demirboga, 2009). Mechanical compression is what is used most commonly in Metro Vancouver due to the more environmentally friendly and cost conscious nature of this process. There are a number of products that can be made from the recycled material. As Ming Yang et al. explains in Study on Recycling of Waste Styrofoam for Adhesive there are methods of making adhesives from discarded PS by adding resins and other chemicals. The adhesive that was produced was compared with other commercial adhesives and they found that the adhesive made from PS was superior to the commercial variety in strength and cost of production (Yanget et al., 2011). In addition to this adhesive there is also picture frames, door moldings and other household trims that can be made of the recycled material (Betts, 2008). It can therefore be confirmed that there are viable secondary products that can be made from the recycled PS. Locally there are a few restrictions in regards to the recycling process of PS – more specifically, these restrictions apply to the PS used for food packaging. First off, due to the chemical dyes that are sometime put into PS products such as packing peanuts or meat trays the PS must be separated into two groups – white PS and colored PS (Sarah Stephen, 2015). In addition to this the food packaging PS such as meat trays or take out containers have to be properly cleaned before being accepted at a recycling facility due to contamination risks. The then compressed PS is sent to other countries to be processed and manufactured into new products. One concept that was brought up during one of the expert interviews was the idea of continuing the 9  recycling process within the Metro Vancouver region. It was suggested that the forestry industry could recycle the PS as an adhesive or resin to use during the production of medium-density fibreboard (MDF) (Anonymous, 2015). Survey Results The table below demonstrates how the cushion packaging dominated in material type that was discovered in the loads observed. Given the sheer size of most cushion packaging relative to that of food packaging it is not surprising to observe cushion packaging as being the dominant PS type found. In addition to this, pick-up trucks and cube vans were observed to have the most PS within their loads. It is hypothesized that cube van vehicles in particular are most typical of small businesses such as appliance or furniture stores. This matches the observation for the largest source of municipal solid waste containing PS as being commercial.           10   Estimated Amount & Source of EPS in Waste Stream   5 to 10% 20 to 30% 40 to 50% Greater than 50% Material Type     Cushion Packaging 121 80 55 121 Food Packaging 23 9 5 7 Other 2 3 5 5  146 92 65 133  436 Vehicle Source     Car 15 9 3 8 Pick-up/cube van** 76 48 39 77 Packer 30 17 11 11 Roll-off 25 18 12 37      MSW Source     SF 56 28 9 12 MF 4 1 3 1 ICI 86 63 53 117 Unknown 0 0 0 3  Table 1: In blue the dominating material type, vehicles source and Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) source are specified. The abbreviations in the MSW Source section of the table are Single Family (SF), Multifamily (MF) and Commercial (ICI) (Metro Vancouver, 2014  Barriers to Recycling Ultimately there are a number of reasons why PS is not being recycled fully within Metro Vancouver. As it was mentioned earlier, PS is 98% air (European Manufacturers of EPS, 2002) which means it has a low density. Its low density results in a dilemma surrounding its transportation post consumer use. As it was explained during one of the expert interviews with an organization that recycles PS, it was simply not cost effective to offer a pickup service to 11  their clients (Anonymous, 2015). Once PS is compressed; the material is a fraction of its original size. This means that truckloads of uncompressed PS have a low economic return. This is a result of the true potential amount of material to be sold being low relative to a truckload of another equally valuable recyclable material. That being said, if an organization has PS brought to them the process of recycling the product is far more profitable (Anonymous, 2015). From a residential perspective, the barriers related to implementing curbside pickup of the material were explained during multiple interviews. In regards to the cushion packaging PS used to package items such as appliances and electronics it was determined that the sheer size of the material would make it unsuitable for curbside pick up (Neil Hastie, 2015). This is due to the  need for a separate container for residents to put the material in as it would not fit in the existing recycling containers. This measure is costly and would be space consuming within residents homes. The smaller PS used for food products in theory could easily fit within the existing blue boxes. However, as it was brought to my attention during another interview, there are concerns surrounding contamination. PS is not a strong material and therefore easily breaks apart. Once it has broken apart within a blue bin, there is the risk of these small pieces embedding themselves in other recyclable materials. This would therefore contaminate and compromise the other recyclable materials being picked up (Allen Langdon & Sarah Stephen, 2015).  Differing Perspectives on a Disposal Ban Throughout my expert interviews I received mixed responses on the feasibility and need for a disposal ban on PS in Metro Vancouver. Some supported the disposal ban on PS as they 12  suggested that in the past Metro Vancouver has been successful in diverting materials from disposal by implementing disposal bans on other recyclable materials. Of course, this is assuming that as with other disposal bans in the past there would be a convenient and efficient alternative method of handling the material that has been diverted (Neil Hastie, 2015). Others suggested that there was no need for a disposal ban on PS. Their argument was that the forty-one depots in Metro Vancouver that already accept PS are sufficient for dealing with PS recycling. These depots are also free to residents, therefore not incurring any of the additional costs residents may be subjected to if PS recycling was integrated into the existing curbside recycling program. In addition to this, depots may offer increased quality control in regards to sorting than a curbside program may (Allen Langdon & Sarah Stephen, 2015). While these are excellent positive aspects to depot recycling it is important to take into consideration that the depots are only free for residential use and not commercial. Given that the survey results confirmed that the largest source of PS is commercial perhaps there needs to be accommodations made to include the commercial sector. Furthermore, there are concerns that if the public and recycling organizations are not ready for the ban to take place there will be illegal dumping of PS (Anonymous, 2015). This last argument is especially concerning due to the environmental implications illegal dumping could have. There would therefore have to be a detailed plan in place prior to implementing  a disposal ban on PS. This plan may include “financing for proper management of banned materials ...in place; enforcement is diligent; and haulers/generators do not simply export material... or dump illegally” (Ontario Waste Management Association, 2013). 13  Recommendations The following recommendations not only apply to the consideration of implementing a disposal ban but deal with the banning of PS in a general sense. 1) If a disposal ban were implemented on PS, it would need to be a gradual process 2) Further public education on the options for recycling PS need to take place 3) Depot drop off is more feasible than curbside pickup with the right adjustments 1) Due to risks such as illegal dumping it is vital that if a disposal ban on PS were to be administered it be done in a gradual process. This means there needs to be an effort to divert the PS from landfills by other means prior to an official ban. This could be done by introducing a higher fee for PS disposal in landfills (Anonymous, 2015). Another possibility is banning or discouraging the disposal of one type of PS at a time. Based on the survey results it may be more beneficial to begin by focusing on the reduction of cushion packaging PS that is disposed in landfills due to the overwhelming quantity.  In addition to this, recycling facilities need to be well prepared for an increased volume of PS  prior to its banning (Anonymous, 2015). Recycling facilities in this case may include the depots and processors. Prior to a ban organizational efforts would have to be made to properly anticipate the demands of each depot within their corresponding neighborhood or area. Following this there would need to be estimations of PS quantities diverted to depots to ensure that the processors are prepared. As it was mentioned earlier, an effort to make the complete recycling process a local affair may be an option. If the entire process was done locally the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from transport could potentially be reduced. 2) Many of the individuals interviewed stipulated that one of their main concerns in regards to implementation of a disposal ban on PS is the lack of knowledge on the topic. Residents and 14  businesses need to be well versed in the appropriate measures and options for dealing with PS. In a study focusing on the introduction of a comingling curbside recycling program it was seen that the level of knowledge individuals had on the new program directly linked to the degree to which they participated in the new program (Gamba & Oskamp, 1994). As such if individuals are well prepared and educated prior to a ban the participation rate may be higher than it would be otherwise. 3) As it has been discussed, there are many challenges to a curbside pickup program for PS. However  existing depot recycling may be an option and may be an area for further research. From my own observation, the distribution of existing recycling depots seems to be uneven. For example, below are two maps that depict where the existing PS recycling depots are across Vancouver and Richmond. In both municipalities there seems to be gaps of areas that lack a recycling facility.15    Map 1, Google map indicating the recycling depots with red dots within Vancouver  16   Map 2, Google map of the City of Richmond and its corresponding recycling depots represented by red dots 17  If a ban were to be put in place there may need to be more consideration towards the convenience of individuals – especially elderly and non-mobile  residents. One study from Taiwan looked at how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) could be used to locate the best places for recycling depots  based on spatial accessibility, population density and variety of recyclable materials a facility can handle. The study claimed that the success of the municipal solid waste recycling program depended on the proximity of drop-off depots to residents (Lin & Chen, 2009). I would suggest a similar mathematical model be used in Metro Vancouver.  Further Study and Conclusions A disposal ban on PS is possible in Metro Vancouver however its success is dependent on a number of factors. Throughout my research recycling has been framed as the alternative to disposal. Recycling PS has been found to be economically and environmentally viable however some of the logistical and social aspects require further consideration and research. From a social perspective the convenience and accessibility for businesses and residents is the largest barrier to implementing a ban. The most convenient and seamless solution would be to incorporate PS into the existing municipal curbside pickup programs. However, curbside pickup of PS poses numerous logistical challenges. As such, recycling depots seem to be the best option for Metro Vancouver. That being said, there are a number of considerations that would have to be made before a disposal ban could be put in place and  the PS be diverted to recycling depots. For one the capacity of the depots at this point in time could be debated along with the convenience of the locations throughout Metro Vancouver. 18   Further research on this matter could look at the current locations of the recycling depots and determine whether they are suitable. Criteria that were outlined earlier such as spatial accessibility, population density and variety of recyclable materials could be used in this case to make those conclusions.   Appendix The following is a list of general questions that were asked during the expert interviews. Appropriate questions were selected from this list depending on the organization that was being interviewed. Questions How is your job or employment connected to solid waste recycling or disposal? What are some of the opportunities within your municipality or community for recycling EPS #6? Do you feel that the current opportunities available for recycling  of EPS #6 are  sufficient and effective? ● If yes, then what aspects make it effective? ● If no, how can it be improved? One of the options that have been proposed is establishing a disposal ban on EPS #6  at all Metro Vancouver disposal facilities. This would mean that  EPS #6 would have to be recycled. Examples of products that have already been banned from landfills include: ● Corrugated Cardboard ● Containers made of glass, metal and recyclable plastics (1,2,4 & 5)  ● Green waste  Do you feel that this course of action is necessary or feasible in regards to EPS #6? ● The above examples all have convenient curbside pickup. Can curbside collection be implemented for EPS #6 as well? 18  o Are there concerns about contamination, or transportation? o How do these differ for Single Family(SF), Multi Family (MF), Commercial(C) and Drop Off(DO) locations? o Would there need to be a specialized vehicle and container system?  Are you aware of local/national/international recycling markets for EPS #6? Is it being made into: ● New packaging material? ● Adhesive? ● Household goods (Picture frames)? ● Construction materials (Light-weight Concrete)?  OR: Is there a market for this material and how much material? Do you foresee any costs (both monetary and social) of implementing a Metro Vancouver region disposal ban on EPS #6. ● Impact on convenience for SF, MF, C, and DO? ● Monetary cost for SF, MF, C, and DO? (haulers, businesses, residents, municipalities, region?)  If a disposal ban was to be implemented, should there be an allowable threshold for the waste stream below which no surcharge would be levied - e.g. 10, 20 or 30% of the load disposed can comprise of EPS #6? Are there additional barriers or important factors that have we have not discussed?  Is there anything else that you would like to share/add?      18  Work Cited Advanced Protective Packaging,. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.http://www.advanced-pp.co.uk/products/polystyrene-packaging Betts, Kellyn. 'Styrofoam: From Packaging To Picture Frames And Beyond'. Environmental Science & Technology 42.14 (2008): 5041-5041. Web. European Manufacturers of EPS,. Building A Better Environment With EPS. Brussels: European Manufacturers of EPS, 2002. Web. 22 Jan. 2015. Gamba, R. J., and S. Oskamp. 'Factors Influencing Community Residents' Participation In Commingled Curbside Recycling Programs'. Environment and Behavior 26.5 (1994): 587-612. Web.  Genpak,. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://www.genpak.com/product/foam-hinged-snack-containers/ Kan, Abdulkadir, and Ramazan Demirboğa. 'A New Technique Of Processing For Waste-Expanded Polystyrene Foams As Aggregates'. Journal of Materials Processing Technology 209.6 (2009): 2994-3000. Web. Lin, Hung-Yueh, and Guan-Hwa Chen. 'Regional Optimization Model For Locating Supplemental Recycling Depots'. Waste Management 29.5 (2009): 1473-1479. Web. Ministry of Environment,. Environment Management Act: Part 3 - Municipal Waste Management. Victoria: Queen's Printer, 2015. Print. Ontario Waste Management Association,. Disposal Bans: Rethink Paper Policy Series. Ottawa: N.p., 2013. Print. Society Promoting Environmental Conservation,. Sustainable Food To-Go Containers. 2013. Print. Yang, Ming, Wen Yun Sui, Yan Qin, and Yu Jing Nie ‘Study On Recycling Of Waste Styrofoam For Adhesive'. AMR 181-182 (2011): 975-978. Web.  Interviews  Allen Langdon. March 6th 2015. Interview. Multi Material BC 18  Anonymous. February 17th 2015. Interview. Neil Hastie. February 25th 2015. Interview. StewardChoice Producer Solutions Sarah Stephen. March 6th 2015. Interview. Multi Material BC  

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