Government of New Brunswick

Recycling converts used items back into raw materials, which are then used in making new products. "Recycle" comes third, after "Reduce" and "Reuse," because recycling requires new resources for transportation and the manufacturing process. Nevertheless, the economic and environmental benefits are significant. Recycling conserves our resources, reduces waste, and creates about six jobs for every one that would be created by landfilling the same amount of waste.

New Brunswick companies find it makes good business sense to recycle their own waste products. NB Power, for example, has earned over $1.5 million since 1998 just by selling leftover materials from its operations, like copper wire, transformers and streetlights, aluminum and steel. NB Power also recycles some of the by-products from generating electricity: gypsum is processed into wallboard, ash is recycled for its vanadium (a grey, naturally occurring metal that is used to strengthen steel), which is used in the steel and chemical industry, and flyash is marketed for its vanadium and for use in concrete products.

There's a trend, too, towards greater "industry stewardship" - where industry takes responsibility for the waste associated with the products and services it sells to consumers. NBTel collects its old telephone directories for recycling when the new ones are published. Brita water filters, plastic bags and Nickel-Cadmium batteries are other common products that are voluntarily managed by the industries that make them. Regulated stewardship programs are similar, but the terms of each are established by legislation. Beverage containers, scrap tires and used oil are managed through such regulated programs in New Brunswick.

Canadian Forces personnel in New Brunswick are actively involved in our recycling efforts as well. The Department of Defense's sustainable development policy requires the collection of solid waste for recycling, and CFB Gagetown has its own municipal-scale facility for composting organic waste.

Our municipalities and Regional Solid Waste Commissions (SWC) offer a variety of recycling services to New Brunswickers. What's available in your community will depend in part on the number of people who live within the area. Each SWC must find a market for its recyclables, of course, and the cost of transportation also plays a large role in determining whether materials can be recycled in a cost-effective manner.

In North America, about 20% of our paper, plastic, glass and metal goods are currently made from recycled material. We could reach 50% quite easily, the experts say; the hardest part is retrieving the recyclables once they've been thrown in the trash. Another challenge is that recycling opportunities change from time to time as the markets for certain recyclables rise and fall.

New Brunswick Recycles

There are numerous recycling programs in New Brunswick that provide opportunities for us to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

Beverage Containers

New Brunswick's Beverage Containers Act (1992) established a deposit/refund system for beverage containers that is considered one of the best in North America. It encourages the reuse and recycling of containers to conserve resources, to reduce the amount of garbage going to our landfills, and to discourage littering. And it makes each beverage distributor directly responsible for managing their own containers.

Neighbourhood Recycling, the facility that processes all alcoholic beverage containers, has doubled its employees since the Program began. Another company, Encorp Atlantic, was established as a direct result of the Program and has created many new jobs in Atlantic Canada through its trucking and processing operations for recyclable non-alcoholic beverage containers. Other New Brunswickers work at privately owned redemption centres across the province, handling anywhere between 3,000 and 30,000 containers each day.

Over 120 distributors of soft drinks, juice, beer and liquor are now covered by the deposit/refund system, with over 5,000 types of containers.

To date, through the Beverage Containers program, we've kept about three billion recyclable containers out of our landfills.

Milk Packaging

Early in 2003, the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission announced a new Milk Packaging Stewardship Program aimed at recycling plastic-coated cardboard milk containers.

Scrap Tires

We buy about 700,000 new tires each year in New Brunswick, which means we have about the same number of old ones we want to discard. When tires are improperly stored or disposed of, there's a risk of real environmental damage - air pollution and groundwater contamination - in the event of a fire. Even if they're properly handled, tires remain a waste problem because of the great amount of space they can use up in our landfills.

The New Brunswick Tire Stewardship Regulation (1996) established a tire stewardship program for the province. An environmental levy on tire sales is used to subsidize a private recycling plant, right here in the province, that grinds our scrap tires into "crumb rubber" and manufactures floor mats, patio blocks, and other new rubber products.

Scrap tires are now accepted for recycling wherever new tires are sold, and over 4 million scrap tires have been processed in the province to date - creating full-time employment for some 70 New Brunswickers.

Used Oil

The used oil from a single oil change can contaminate a year's supply of clean water for 50 people. Yet, 16.5 million litres of used oil end up in Canadian landfills each year and another 4 million litres are poured directly into storm drains.

Fortunately, used lubricating oil (e.g. from home oil changes) can be processed and "cleaned" for use again, as fuel or for some other purpose. In fact, recycling one litre of used oil provides the same amount of high quality oil that would come from 42 litres of crude oil.

While many service stations and garages in New Brunswick have for years recycled their own waste oil, only a limited number would accept the used oil from do-it-yourselfers. New Brunswick's Used Oil Regulation (2002) set up an industry stewardship program, where any business selling oil to consumers must also ensure that used oil is collected for recycling.


A plastic laundry basket might be durable enough for years of careful use, while a cheaply made toy might break the day it's brought home. Either way, the plastics themselves are made to last. Plastics can take between 100 and 400 years to break down - remaining as garbage long after the original product has stopped being useful.

Plastics make up between 20 to 30% by volume of the solid waste sent to Canada's landfills, and a large proportion of litter. Fortunately, they're also widely collected for recycling.

New Brunswick's Regional Solid Waste Commissions have realized that the key to finding a market for our recyclables is to provide a steady supply of clean, sorted product. Different plastics have different chemical structures, so even a small amount of the "wrong" type can ruin a "melt" of recycled plastic. The plastics industry has developed a set of symbols that help us sort them for recycling. Many products are now marked with these symbols.

In New Brunswick, our most recycled plastic items are soft-drink bottles made of PET (or PETE) (#1), which are recycled as part of the Beverage Containers Program; HDPE (#2) containers, accepted for recycling in most Solid Waste Commission regions; and LDPE (#4) plastic grocery bags, collected by many grocery stores across the province.

Currently, among the recyclables, PET/PETE plastic is probably our most valuable commodity next to aluminum. The process for recycling PET/PETE is well established, and there are so many uses for the recycled product - from automotive parts and paint brushes to floor tiles and carpeting - that the market for it is generally steady.

Recycling facilities that buy our collected PET/PETE products will grind the plastic into flakes, then wash and dry it. The flakes are melted and may be moulded into other products, formed into pellets (like those used to stuff a "bean bag" chair), or spun into polyester fibres. Just five 2-litre bottles can make enough fibrefill to stuff a ski jacket!

The following chart shows the identification symbols on plastic packaging commonly found in households and the new products that can result from recycling them.





Soft drink, water, sports drinks, beer, mouthwash, some ketchup and salad dressing bottles, peanut butter, pickles, jellies, and jams.


Fibre, tote bags, clothing, food and beverage containers, carpet, strapping, fleece wear, luggage.



Milk, water, juice, cosmetic, shampoo, dish, laundry and detergent bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, grocery, trash and retail bags.

Liquid laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner and motor oil bottles; pipe, buckets, crates, flower pots, garden edging, recycling bins, benches, dog houses, plastic lumber, floor tiles, picnic tables, fencing.



Clear food and nonfood packaging, medical tubing, wire and cable insulation, construction products such as pipes, fittings, siding, floor tiles, carpet backing and window frames.

Packaging, loose-leaf binders, decking, panelling, gutters, mud flaps, floor tiles and mats, resilient flooring, cassette trays, electrical boxes, cables, traffic cones, garden hose, mobile home skirting.



Dry cleaning, bread and frozen food bags, squeezable bottles.

Shipping envelopes, garbage cans and liners, floor tile, furniture, compost bins, panelling, landscape timber, lumber.



Some ketchup bottles, yogurt and margarine containers, medicine bottles.

Car battery cases, signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, ice scrapers, oil funnels, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays.



Compact disc jackets, grocery store meat trays, egg cartons, aspirin bottles, cups, plates and cutlery.

Thermometers, light switch plates, thermal insulation, egg cartons, vents, desk trays, rulers, license plate frames, foam packing, foam plates, cups, utensils.



Three and five-gallon reusable water bottles, some citrus juice and ketchup bottles.

Bottles, plastic lumber applications.

Pesticide Container Recycling: A voluntary program begun in 1995 allows New Brunswick forestry companies, farmers, and others to return their pesticide containers to collection sites, usually at a licensed pesticide dealer. The clean, empty containers — over 25,000 of them each year — are shredded and recycled into usable products like plastic fence posts and pallets.


Recycling paper uses 60% less energy than making paper from virgin timber, which makes good economic sense for industry. At least two plants in Canada now produce newsprint with an average recycled content of 75% or more.

The average recycled content of newsprint has risen from 1.4% in 1990 to 22% in 1997, reducing the Canadian pulp and paper industry's electricity consumption by over 2.5 million megawatt hours per year. Here in New Brunswick, our pulp-and-paper mills can't get enough recycled fibre from local sources, and must import some from outside the province.

Just think, if we sent all our waste newspaper to pulp mills instead of landfills, we could enhance their ability to make recycled newsprint, keep that money in New Brunswick's economy, save energy, and use our forests more wisely.

Newspapers have been recycled for years. As well as going into new newsprint, they can be used for a wide range of products from egg cartons to kitty litter, to construction materials like wallboard and cellulose insulation. Just one family's supply of daily papers for a year can make enough insulation for an entire house.

Now, as the price of virgin paper pulp rises and technology improves, we're learning to recycle even more types of paper and cardboard. Recycled magazines can be used to add strength to newsprint. Office paper can be recycled into tissue paper, and the boxboard used in cereal boxes into many other products. Old cardboard is used to make new cardboard, boxboard, gift-wrap, and even biodegradable pots for plants.

If it costs you $1,560.00 to keep your child in single-use diapers for 2 1/2 years, it'll cost taxpayers another $125.00 to dispose of those disposables!

Successful paper recycling depends on our ability to collect large amounts of clean, dry, recyclable paper. Food-soiled or wet paper or cardboard can't be sent for recycling (but they can still be composted). Carbon paper, microwaveable food packaging, pet food bags, disposable diapers and so on are a mix of paper fibre with other materials that are very hard to separate. These are not recyclable.


All glass beverage containers are returnable in New Brunswick under the Beverage Containers Program. On average, a refillable glass bottle can be reused up to 15 times before it's melted down to make new glass products. Recycling one glass bottle can save enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.

Glass is heavy, however, so it's expensive to collect, handle and transport for recycling. At times, low prices for recycled glass "cullet" mean that our Solid Waste Commissions can't find a viable market for non returnable glass like jars, windows, drinking glasses, and so on. The glass may be crushed, in that case, and used to cover over other garbage or build roads at the landfill site.


Salvage yards have traditionally bought and sold scrap metal for recycling into new metal products, while used auto parts in good condition are sold to consumers and garages for repairing other vehicles. Scrap metals taken to landfills are set aside for recycling as well.

Beverage cans are collected across the province under the Beverage Containers Program, and food cans are recyclable in some regions. Aluminum is a particularly valuable recyclable, because recycled aluminium is as good as if it were made from new material. It can be melted down and recycled many times over. About 89% of the beverage cans used in Canada are made of aluminum. In the landfill, they'd take about 300 years to break down. Recycled to make new cans, they can save 95% of the energy it would take to process new aluminum. How much energy is that? Each recycled aluminum can saves enough to light a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours.

Other beverage cans are made of steel, as are "tin" food cans. Canadians throw away 1,500 tonnes of steel each day, just in food and beverage cans. Steel can be recycled into cans, bicycles, machine parts, and even new cars. When a steel mill uses recycled scrap instead of iron ore, it can reduce the related water pollution and mining wastes by over 70%, and save energy too.


When a battery dies, it ceases to be a convenient, portable source of energy and becomes a waste issue. Lead-acid car batteries have three major components: lead, acid and plastic. Household batteries, depending on their type, contain mercury, silver, cadmium, lithium and other heavy metals, as well as highly corrosive acids.

Clearly, it makes sense to reduce the number of batteries we use and to keep them out of the landfills by recycling what we can. When a car battery is recycled, 100% of the lead can be reclaimed and used in a new battery indefinitely. The acid can be recycled and used in new batteries. It can also be converted to sodium sulfate, a product used in fertilizer, dyes and other products.

Most car battery cases are black because they have been made from the plastic recycled from spent battery cases: when the various colours are melted together, they become black.

Rechargeable batteries can be charged up to 1,000 times, making them a better choice than single-use batteries. Eventually, however, even the rechargeables will need to be recycled.

Since 1997, the Canadian Household Battery Association has voluntarily operated a national program to collect and recycle used Ni-Cad (nickel-cadmium) rechargeable batteries. Throughout New Brunswick there are retailers who accept Ni-Cad batteries for recycling.

Although other types of household batteries are not as widely recyclable, there are a number of jewellery, electronics and department stores in the province which accept the "button" batteries, such as those used in watches and hearing aids. Automotive batteries are voluntarily collected by some garages and parts retailers.


It makes good sense, environmentally and financially, to buy only as much paint as you need, and use it all up or share the rest with friends or a community group. Inevitably, however, there will be some leftovers - and perhaps no one who shares your taste in colours. The paint congeals and the paint cans rust, waiting for another use, and it all ends up going to the landfill.

If you need to dispose of unused paint, contact your Regional Solid Waste Commission to find out if and when there may be a Household Hazardous Waste or Waste Paint Day.

The technology does exist to clean and reprocess a range of leftover paint. Here in New Brunswick, we're moving towards a stewardship program to ensure recycling of paint products.

Construction & Demolition Waste

There is a growing re-sale market in New Brunswick for used mouldings, fixtures, dimensional lumber, and other building materials saved from demolition or left over from construction projects. In some instances, the "deconstruction" of a building, where materials and fixtures are saved and reused instead of being demolished, could lower tipping fees and find a new use for perfectly good materials such as plumbing pipes and windows.

Construction wastes have considerable potential for recycling, even where reuse is not an option. For example, scraps of plasterboard and drywall can be crushed, screened, and recycled into new gypsum products. Recycling construction waste wherever possible can reduce costs for builders and demolition companies, by lowering the tipping fees they pay when landfilling waste that cannot be recycled.

Organic Waste

Nature's own version of recycling, the composting process, is what happens when leaves drop onto the forest floor and decompose naturally into dark, rich soil-like humus. Compost-enriched soil helps plants to make more efficient use of moisture and nutrients, reducing our need to fertilize and water them.

Up to one-third of our household waste is organic material - food and kitchen scraps, yard waste, grass clippings - that could be turned into compost instead of going to the landfill.

Home-based composting is quickly gaining in popularity, and a number of New Brunswick municipalities hold backyard composting workshops and/or supply low-cost compost bins for their residents. Some communities also have programs to collect Christmas trees or brush, using these to protect shorelines from erosion or chipping them for garden mulch. Some New Brunswick schools and other institutions have established composting programs to handle the food waste from their cafeterias. Maybe you could set up a similar program at your school or place of business.

Several of New Brunswick's Regional Solid Waste Commissions have set up an Organic Waste Program (sometimes called a "wet/dry" system): households separate their own compostable waste, then it's collected at curbside for composting by the SWC. Large-scale composting programs like this allow more people to participate in composting their waste, and successfully process materials such as bones from meat products that can't be composted at home.

A number of municipalities recycle the organic material (called biosolids) extracted from wastewater treatment plants. Biosolids can improve soil quality where the organic matter in the natural topsoil is low or has been depleted.

Municipal biosolids are produced, stored, handled, and applied only with a Certificate of Approval from the Province, and according to a detailed set of guidelines to ensure the material's safe and responsible use. This includes regular testing for potentially harmful substances, including various metals that may have been carried in the wastewater.

Other Things You Can Do

The job of individual New Brunswickers is to separate the recyclable materials from the waste we create - at home, at school, and in the workplace. Here are a few ideas to help make recycling easy, convenient, and a part of your regular routine.

Remember this simple rule: If there's space for waste, then there's room to recycle!

  • Set up a "recycling centre" or simply adapt the containers and storage space you already have to collect recyclables right where the waste is made.

  • Fill one plastic grocery bag with other grocery bags.

  • When collecting food cans for recycling, you can leave the labels on, because new technology allows the paper to be separated during processing, but do rinse out any food scraps.

  • Make sure that beverage containers are empty, and give them a quick rinse. Leave the labels on - no label, no refund! - but remove the caps and lids. Sort your beverage containers by material, for easier storage and to save time at the redemption centre.

  • Collecting returnable beverage containers is a great way for schools and community groups to raise extra money. Ask for a copy of the Department of Environment's "Fund-Raising & Beverage Containers" fact sheet for tips on running a successful bottle drive.

  • Keep a bin for bottles and cans under the sink where you rinse them out.

  • Flatten your cardboard boxes and slide them under a bed, or use them to sort other recyclables.

  • Put a container in the kitchen to collect kitchen waste that can be composted.

  • Put a "bill basket" next to the wastebasket wherever you do your paperwork - and one at the door to catch "junk mail" before it gets in.

  • Give everyone in the family the responsibility for one small recycling job. Even young children can help to stack newspapers or check the type numbers on plastic containers.

  • Reduce fuel consumption (and vehicle emissions) by combining a trip to the redemption centre with another regular errand, like getting groceries. Take turns with a neighbour: you take back the returnables this week, while your friend takes the kids to hockey.

  • Contact your Regional Solid Waste Commission for up-to-date information on the recycling programs in your community.

Closing the Loop: Recycle What You Buy, and Buy What You Recycle!

Recycling doesn't end with collecting our recyclables. To "close the loop" we need to turn those materials into new usable products, and to ensure a market for those products.

In the past, the most common reason for a recycling program to fail was the lack of a strong and consistent market for the materials collected. Manufacturers are happy to recycle our waste materials, if it makes good economic sense for them to do so and if there's a strong demand for products with recycled content. Big companies really do listen when consumers speak - especially if it's our money that does the talking! The more often we choose recycled-content products over those made with new resources, the more we'll be able to recycle.