The Regional District of Central Kootenay has decided to change its new recycling bins in rural Nelson by making the openings larger and by joining the hole and slot to allow for the insertion of awkwardly shaped items.
This decision at Wednesday’s waste recovery committee meeting follows the introduction a month ago of new closed bins with small holes and slots for insertion of recycling items. Those replaced open bins into which residents put full blue bags of recycling.
“The transition has been problematic,” resource recovery manager Mike Morrison told regional directors at the meeting. “We saw a lot of dumping of blue bags, although this has subsided somewhat. We have received negative comments from residents having trouble adjusting.”
Morrison said his staff recently surveyed 438 rural residents about the new recycling system and found that 11 per cent are satisfied, 39 per cent are neutral, 29 per cent don’t like it, two per cent said they are no longer going to recycle, and 19 per cent had no comment.
Enlarging the holes in the bins will cost the regional district about $5,000. It was revealed at the meeting that the sizes of the holes are not consistent among bins at different locations, making some more inconvenient for the public than others.
A staff memo presented at the meeting presented the pros and cons of increasing the sizes of the bin openings:
• Perceived convenience
• Larger items can be disposed of without breaking them down
• May reduce time taken to dispose of recylables.
• It may allow more uncompacted material so bins fill up quicker will less material, raising costs
• Increased probability of contamination which can result in garbage, dirty materials, excess moisture, and hazardous waste which in turn lead to materials being rejected at the processing facility and loads being taken to the landfill
• Attraction of wildlife to the bins.
• Cost to the RDCK to modify the bins.
The recent bin changes have taken place in the rural areas around Salmo, Nelson, and Kaslo. Other areas in the regional district — the Creston Valley, East Shore, Slocan Valley, Arrow Lakes, and rural Castlegar — have used closed bins with small openings since 2011.
Some directors from those other areas seemed puzzled by the problem. Directors Larry Binks (rural Creston) and Andy Davidoff (rural Castlegar) said when their area switched to closed bins in 2011 there were few complaints.
“I use the Ootischenia site all the time,” Davidoff said. “There are no open bins. I have never heard a complaint about it. I make a point of asking.”
Leaving the bins open was another option considered, and quickly rejected, by the committee on Wednesday. Binks said they tried that in his area.
“We left a couple containers open to see what would happen and we had containers full of wet recycling and garbage. We never have them open now and we don’t hear any complaints.”
Does switching to closed bins discourage people from recycling? Do they send more waste to the landfill as a result? It is not an easy comparison to make, regional district CAO Stuart Horn told the Star in an email, because businesses, industry and institutions used the open bins for their recycling. But with closed bins they don’t, because their high recycling volumes make it too time consuming.
“Our system was not designed to accept large volumes of commercial recycling, and the smaller bins now make it more challenging for these users to access our system,” Horn wrote. “While the commercial sector is welcome to continue using our bins, we know that many businesses will find it more convenient to contract with third parties for their recycling services, as is the normal practice in most of BC.
“We will see a reduction in volume as a result of the commercial sector no longer using our system. This factor makes any volume change from residents difficult to determine.”
Paragraph four of this article was amended on November 20 to correct an error. The percentage of people who said they did not like the new system was cited as 20 per cent when it should have read 29 per cent.