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Environment File: Plastic bags banned for leaves

Plastic bags banned from fall leaf collection, and one last chance to dump your oversized junk
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BANNED – St. Albert residents will no longer be able to put out leaves for curbside collection in plastic bags as of this fall. The city has banned the bags to reduce the use of single-use plastic items. Residents should use bins or paper bags instead. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert residents will have to use bins or paper bags for their leaves this fall instead of plastic ones when they set them out at the curb as the city cracks down on single-use plastics.

City officials announced this week that they would no longer accept leaves in plastic bags as part of their curbside leaf pick-up program.

The change is part of the city’s single-use plastic reduction strategy, which is still under development, said city waste and diversion program supervisor Olivia Kwok.

“You can’t compost the plastic bags,” she said, and it’s very labour-intensive to de-bag them to get the leaves out. There are also many alternatives available, such as paper bags (which can go straight into the composter) or bins (which can be reused many times).

Kwok said rejected bags would get a sticker explaining other ways to dispose of leaves (which include the green organics cart and hauling them to the Villeneuve Road compost depot) and be left at the curb. Certified compostable bags won’t be collected either, as they tend to split, but those are still allowed in the green organics cart.

Many studies have found that paper bags are generally worse for the environment than plastic ones due to the additional water and energy needed to make them. A 2017 Recyc-Québec study found that paper bags had four to 28 times more environmental impact than plastic ones when it came to human health, ecosystem effects, and use of fossil fuels, but about 277-388 times less when it came to end-of-life disposal as they don’t take centuries to degrade.

Paper takes more resources, but it can keep plastic out of the composting system, resulting in cleaner, cheaper compost, said Christina Seidel of the Recycling Council of Alberta. Many jurisdictions ban plastic bags from their leaf programs. Better still is to avoid waste from bags entirely with a reusable bin.

You can also put leaves in your home composter, bury them, mulch them, or put them in the bottom of your pots, noted Enjoy Centre co-owner Jim Hole.

“You’re enriching your soil with nutrients, and it’s really good organic matter.”

Paper leaf bags are available at area stores, and many residents still have trash bins they can use for leaves, Kwok said. Bins and bags should be 80 L or 25 kg or less loaded so crews can safely lift them.

Kwok said that the city had yet to decide on a ban for other plastic garbage bags, which are not required for the brown waste cart. They were still sticking with blue bags for recycling as those allow for unlimited volumes and easy for collectors to inspect them for contaminated items.

The curbside leaf pick-up runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 11 and Oct. 28 to Nov. 8. Visit for details.

Big junk event

If you still have a busted bike or bookshelf to get rid of and can’t fit it in your brown cart, you’ve got one last chance to do so in town this year.

Saturday, Sept. 14 is St. Albert’s final large-item drop-off event this year. Anyone who sticks two extra garbage tags onto a large item can bring it to the public works yard at 7 Chevigny Street between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. to have city crews cart it away. You can get the tags at St. Albert Place, Servus Place, or Fountain Park; they won’t be available at the public works yard.

Crews will take oversized items that don’t fit in the brown cart and aren’t car parts, construction, hazardous or biomedical waste, or items that contain or use fuel or Freon, Kwok said. Metal items will be recycled, while anything else will go to the dump.

If you miss this drop-off, you can either haul your big items to an Edmonton Eco-Station or wait for next year’s three large-item events, which have yet to be scheduled. Still-useable items can be donated or saved for next year’s Take It or Leave It event.

See for details.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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