Winnipeggers recycled more and threw away less in the months following a city-wide changeover from blue boxes to automated carts.
City solid-waste manager Darryl Drohomerski said preliminary results show recycling volumes have increased between 18 and 20 per cent since October. The 240-litre carts hold the equivalent of four blue boxes. Emterra started collecting them from 24,000 households in the city's former AutoBin areas on Aug. 1, and another 165,000 single-family homes switched over on Oct. 1.
Drohomerski said trucks picked up 5,000 additional tonnes of recyclables between October 2012 and March 2013 compared with the same period the previous year -- the equivalent of about 1,200 extra truckloads of recyclables.
He said that's a good sign more city residents are recycling and Winnipeg is on target to improve the amount it diverts from the landfill.
Only about 15 per cent of all waste was diverted from landfills before the changeover -- one of the lowest rates in the country.
Drohomerski said Winnipeg's diversion rate increased to 19 or 20 per cent in 2012, though officials will get a clearer picture in 2013, the first full calendar year of the new collection system.
"We're certainly seeing an increase in material coming in," Drohomerski said Friday. "What we're seeing now is more plastic bottles, more paper, more cardboard. The big one has been plastic. We've seen a lot more plastic bottles."
City officials expected to see a boost in the amount of material recycled under the new collection system, and Winnipeg's waste collector expanded the storage area at the recycling facility so it can handle about a week's worth of recyclables.
There's enough storage space for the recycling facility to stop sorting and processing material for a couple of days, Drohomerski said, and the storage building is usually no more than one-third full. Winnipeg plans to build a brand-new $16-million recycling processing facility in 2017.
Public works chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) said he's pleased by the increase in recycling and expects Winnipeg will continue to divert more away from the landfill in the coming years.
Initially, the city was bombarded with complaints about the new collection system as the contractor missed pickups and had delays.
"The whole reason we rolled out the new system was to increase recycling and minimize garbage that goes into landfill," Vandal said. "I'm 100 per cent convinced that in the next year we're going to make significant gains in both, and that's great for the environment."