Winnipeg restaurants scammed: recycling deal turns out to be garbage

Earls Restaurants in Winnipeg thought their glass waste was being recycled
Photo Credit: Veronica Hall

Earls Restaurants in Winnipeg thought they were paying to have their glass waste recycled. But the company they hired was really doing the same thing the garbage men do: taking it to the dump.

“I guess it was our own stupidity for not digging into it before,” says Rob Woods, director of operations for Earls Restaurants in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

In 2002 Earls Restaurants hired a national environmental waste company to manage their waste and set up recycling programs at their locations across Canada. All four Winnipeg restaurants were given recycling bins specifically for glass and it was picked up regularly for an extra fee.

Earls was paying $150 a month per restaurant, "thinking we were doing a good thing,” says Woods.

While trying to cut costs in the summer of 2009, Earls looked into other recycling companies in Winnipeg and found that none recycled glass. Their broken dinner wear and empty liquor bottles were going straight to the Brady Road landfill for an extra cost of $7,000 a year.

Cassandra Smith, 25, a bartender at Earls Polo Park, says, “We throw four to five crates full of glass into the dumpster every day, more on a busy day. Each crate can probably hold 12 bottles; if it was being recycled it could do a lot.”

Kristjan Backman, president of Phoenix Recycling, says, “It’s a wink, wink, nudge, nudge thing. Companies want to tell their customers they’re green. So they pay other companies to lie to them. They think, what they don’t know can’t hurt them.”

Backman has been running Phoenix Recycling for 20 years. He says glass has to be sorted by colour and shipped to other provinces to be recycled into new glass, which would do more harm to the environment than good.

Right now, most of the glass at the Brady Road landfill is being used for road construction. “We lose business because we tell people the glass will sit in the landfill,” he says.

After finding out what was going on in Winnipeg, Earls Restaurants dumped the environmental waste company. Woods says, “There’s no point in paying for a service that’s not doing what you think they’re doing.”


kate jackson » Nov 17th 2009, 09:46

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It's true that the facility does not have the capacity to properly recycle glass. But that does not mean that paper waste, plastics, and aluminum should be ignored -- which is recycled. Also having the glass crushed and used for roadbed takes up far less space in the landfill and that is a large issue if your are putting 4 to 5 crates of glass into it everyday.

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