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Clear Bag Fact Sheet

1) Why would a municipality want to implement a clear bag program?

Answer: The clear bag program is often implemented as a cost effective measure to increase diversion of materials from the waste stream.  Implementing a clear bag program also improves worker safety and protects the collector from cutting themselves on sharp objects such as broken glass or needles.  The collector is able to conduct a quick assessment of the contents within the clear bag(s) to ensure that no recyclable or hazardous items such as oil paint, pharmaceuticals products or corrosive wastes are in the bag.

2) Do clear plastic bags cost more than traditional opaque (black) plastic bags?

Answer: Both clear plastic and opaque (black) plastic garbage bags are manufactured from the same type of plastic resin – typically linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The only difference between clear and coloured bags is the dyes which have been added to colour bags. From a sales perspective, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) should not differ between the two products.  Price differentials also occur based on the individual bag size, closure type (i.e. drawstring / easy-tie), brand name / private label or packaging size, and retailer. 

3) What should I do with my left over opaque garbage bags?

Answer: Residents are encouraged to use up all opaque bags during the soft launch period between February and December 31 2016.  Residents can start using clear bags anytime and are encouraged to purchase clear bags next time there is a need to purchase garbage bags.  Residents with a large supply of clear bags you don’t expect to use before January 2017 are encouraged to donate/trade their opaque bags to friends/family not in a jurisdiction requiring the use of clear bags. 

4) What about my privacy?

Answer: Residents are permitted one small privacy bag (approximately the size of a standard shopping/grocery bag) in each clear bag for personal items.  This should provide for an adequate method to enable residents to shield material that they would prefer not be exposed for view. Such items may include sanitary products, diapers, incontinence products, financial information, medical objects or other personal items.  Clear bags of waste may also be placed into a garbage bin for increased privacy until the collector picks up the bag.   

5) Will retailers list clear bags in the local stores?

Answer: Retailers list products to be sold in their jurisdiction based on demand. Residents will only purchase clear bags once a program has been launched. Retailers have received various forms of notification since February 2016 of the new program to ensure clear bags are available for hard launch date of January 2017.

6) Does the use of clear bags (garbage) increase the diversion of waste from landfill?

Answer: Yes. All participating municipalities have reported an increase in the amount of recyclable material diverted from the curbside garbage into curbside recycling where programs are in place. The amount of incremental diversion will depend upon the maturity and effectiveness of existing programs as well has how comprehensive they are. Experience has illustrated that overall diversion rates could increase by over 10% above current rates.

7) I’m diverting as much material from the garbage as I can, why do I have to do this?

Answer: For residents already doing their best to divert, this program should make no difference except for the colour of bag they use. This program is intended to increase participation from households that do not presently recycle material by raising them to the standard of those who already participate.

8) What is the difference between a “soft” launch and a “hard” launch?

Answer: A “soft” launch simply refers to a specified time period whereby residents are encouraged to participate but no penalty will be imposed if they do not. A “hard” launch typically means that participation is mandatory and followed up with enforcement (typically non-collection) of non-compliant bags. A municipality will typically “soft” launch a program as a way to ease residents into participation and then transition to a “hard” launch typically three to six months later. This strategy provides an additional benefit of enabling residents to use up existing inventories of opaque plastic bags and offers additional time to enable them to purchase clear bags.  The City of Kawartha Lakes is proposing a soft launch starting in the spring 2016 with a hard launch in January 2017.

9) What if a resident places some “divertible” material in the clear bag?

Answer:  The City of Kawartha Lakes is proposing an allowable level of 20% divertible material in the garbage. However starting in January 2017 bags will be left behind if they contain more than the 20% divertible material.  

10) Are clear bags recyclable?

Answer: Although there are (some) recycling programs in place to recycle LLDPE film (i.e. plastic bags), there are no programs in place to recycle plastic bags used to collect garbage as it would be difficult to segregate the plastic bags from the garbage within.

11) Are clear bags also required at the City’s landfill sites?

Answer:  Yes residents will be expected to bring any bagged waste to landfill in clear bags so attendants can properly assess loads and divert material appropriately.  The bylaw being proposed to Council recommends waste brought to landfill sites in black bags will be charged more than waste brought in clear bags.

12) I use garbage cans. How does this affect my current usage?

Answer: There is a limit of 1 small opaque privacy bag per bag of garbage.  These opaque bags could be placed either in a larger clear plastic bag that contains garbage or on top of loose garbage in a garbage can. Note garbage should not contain recyclables or hazardous waste.  If the collector notes your loose waste contains recycling or hazardous materials when it is dumped it will no longer be accepted loose and must be in a clear bag.

13) I have already purchased recycling bins. I am worried that this will mean I need more recycling bins.  Will the City supply recycling bins at no cost?

Answer: For residents already recycling and using bins you should not need to purchase additional recycling bins.  Residents who do not currently recycle may wish to purchase recycling bins.  The City sells various sizes of recycling containers at retail value.  The City will investigate the possibility of offering bins at a discount price at some special events/occasions throughout the year.        

14) I am a contractor doing a heavy duty job and normally use heavy durable bags.  What if no one sells heavy duty clear bags. 

Answer: The City is doing a retailer outreach program and will ask retailers to stock heavy duty clear bags for this purpose.  A list of retailers stocking clear bags will be maintained on the City’s website.

15) I am a contractor who rents bins to customers.  Are we expected to ensure there are no opaque bags in the bins?

Answer: It is expected that all residents and business’ in the City of Kawartha Lakes participate in the clear bag program.  Customers receiving bins will need to be educated (if they are not already) on the clear bag program and asked to use clear bags or no large opaque bags to dispose of their waste.  This will enable landfill staff to be able to monitor what is being thrown out as garbage and ensure that loads do not contain hazardous materials and do not have recyclables in them.  In the draft waste bylaw going to Council it is proposed that loads which contain more then 20% of recyclables or black/green garbage bags will be charged a mixed load tip fee.

16) I use a white garbage bag in my kitchen receptacle and then place it in a large garbage bag. I also reuse the grocery bags for kitty litter which also go in to the large garbage bags. Will that still be "allowed"? Or must we find small clear bags for those uses as well?

Answer: You will be permitted 1 small opaque bag (approximately the size of a standard shopping/grocery bag) per clear garbage bag.  These are intended for privacy purposes. If you exceed 2 of these privacy bags per week it is recommended that residents use a clear kitchen bag.  Retailers will be notified of this requirement and it will be recommended that they stock clear kitchen catcher bags.  The City encourages residents to bag any excess grocery bags and include them in your container recycling bin and/or use reusable bags for doing your grocery shopping.

17) What happens if I have made a conscious choice not to use any kind of plastic bag and instead may be recycling dog food bags and chicken feed bags?

Answer: These bags, if filled no more then the size of a full shopping/grocery bag, can be used as your privacy bag.  If residents wish to recycle these products they are encouraged to ask the retailer about a recycling program for the materials.

18)  Instead of clear bags program, why doesn’t the City of Kawartha Lakes start up an organics program?

Answer: The City of Kawartha Lake’s Waste Department understands the benefits of beginning an organics program. Based on the low population and large area of the City of Kawartha Lakes, starting up an organics/food scraps program at this time is not financially feasible.  The City will be exploring opportunities to expand the backyard composting program in 2017.

19) What should I do with my organic waste?

Answer: The City of Kawartha Lakes recommends purchasing a back yard composter. Composters are available for purchase at the City’s service centers.  If you’re concerned about attracting pests, then an underground digester may be more feasible.   Waste Management staff plan to expand and improve the backyard composting program in 2017 and hope to have digesters available as part of this program in the future.  You can also shop online for these products.  If you don’t/can’t compost in your back yard then organics can be put loosely into your large clear garbage bag. To keep odours down food scraps could be put into smaller clear bags and tied (we recommend reusing those fruit and vegetable bags you get when you buy food at the grocery store).

20) Can we place our recycling in clear bags?

Answer:  Clear bags are not to be used for recycling collection as it does not align with the current collection contract.  There is an additional cost at the recycling plant that would apply to open each bag of recycling and take the materials out to be sorted.  Bagged recycling also creates additional waste and material set outs cannot be assessed/sorted by the collector to the same extent as when it is placed loosely in a blue box.  Some tips for reducing wind blown recycling include:

  • placing your garbage bag on top of your recycling bin,
  • don’t over load your recycling bin,
  • place a cover on top of the recycling bin,
  • put heavier or larger items on top
  • Use larger recycling bins

21) Can we use compostable bags?

Answer:  The City is not aware of any compostable bags that are clear. If clear compostable/biodegradable bags are available, residents are welcome to use them as long as they wont tear easily at the curb.  Small compostable bags can be used as a privacy bag within the clear bag. 

22) What about my confidential papers

Answer:  We recommend shredding your confidential paperwork and placing them in a small bag.  The bag of shredded paper can be placed in your paper bin for collection on your paper recycling day. 

23) Will this cost the taxpayers more now that garbage collectors will need to inspect each bag?

Answer:  This program will not make collection more expensive. Plastic containers, cardboard, and hazards can very easily be spotted through the clear bags.  This program will reduce downtime by improving collector safety. 

24) Will the City receive more revenue with more recycling being put out? 

Answer:  Correct. With more recyclables being collected the City of Kawartha Lakes will have more materials to sell to market. This will result in more revenue for the recyclables which offsets the City’s operating costs.

25) What if I only generate one shopping bag of waste each week?

Answer: This will count as your privacy bag and you can tie your shopping bag of waste closed and place it directly on the curb for curbside collection without placing it into a clear bag.

26) Can small dog waste bags (The type that would attach to a leash) that are not see through be placed into my clear bag?

Answer: Yes. You may place dog waste collection bags directly into your clear bag no matter what colour they are, they do not need to be see through.

27) Can I use the free vegetable bags from the grocery store as clear kitchen catchers to save money?

Answer: Yes. Although not very strong, vegetable bags make excellent liners for bathrooms that only see Kleenex and laundry rooms that only see lint from the dryer. Clear grocery bags such as those found at La Mantia’s Country Market can also be used.

28) Can diapers go into my clear bag? I use a Diaper Genie, and the bag is tinted blue. Can I put the Diaper Genie bag inside of my clear bag?

 Answer: Yes. Diaper Genie type bags which obviously contain diapers may be placed inside of your clear bag for collection no matter what colour they are. Diapers may also be placed directly into your clear bag, or into your privacy bag and then your clear bag for collection.

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