Abandoned blue bags are seen at the Grohman Narrows transfer station on Tuesday. The RDCK expects there will be fewer of these as people adjust to a new recycling system.

Abandoned blue bags clutter RDCK transfer station

The RDCK expects this problem will disappear as people adjust to a new recycling system.

Changes to the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s recycling system in the Nelson area have created a bit of a mess around some of transfer stations.

Until recently, filled blue bags could be dropped at the transfer stations in Nelson, Grohman Narrows, and others in the area. You could just throw the whole bag in a bin. But not any more.

Now there is no place to leave the bag. You have to open it and empty the contents into bins with openings so small that material can only be inserted one piece at a time. You don’t have to sort it, though — that will be done for you at the other end.

The regional district’s Mike Morrison says the abandonment of blue bags at the recycle bins will taper off once the public understands the new system.

One reason for the small opening in the bins, according to Morrison, is to force people to break down their cardboard — leaving cardboard unflattened takes up a lot of unnecessary space.

Morrison says if they left the bin tops open, “we would get people putting garbage in there. Now they would have to feed it through the slot. We want to limit that.”

He said they also want to limit access for “scavengers looking for refundable containers.”

But Morrison says the main reason for the new bins is cost effectiveness. Under the old system, recycling was put in large roll-off bins which were then hauled to a facility in Castlegar. Under the new system, the bins will not be moved. Material will be dumped from the individual bins into a truck with an on-board compacter.

“In the old system we were hauling it uncompacted, taking many round trips to the waste facility in Castlegar from depots in Nelson, Balfour, Salmo, Ymir, Lakeside, Grohman, Kokanee, Balfour, and Kaslo. We could only transport one bin at a time.”

Now, he says, several depots can be serviced in one trip. “This will result in a lower carbon footprint and a savings of $200,000 per year.”

Morrison said the change comes as part of the contracting out of recycling to Waste Management, an international company that, according to its Wikipedia entry, has the largest trucking fleet in the waste industry with 26,000 collection and transfer vehicles. Before that, the regional district collected and trucked its own recycling.

Waste Management has already been picking up and processing recycling in other parts of the regional district (Creston, the East Shore, Nakusp, the Slocan Valley and Castlegar) for several years using the bins with small openings and truck compacter model. That model has arrived in the Nelson area as part of a contract with Waste Management at the request of the regional district, Morrison explained.

Michael Jessen, a local environmental consultant and former RDCK recycling co-ordinator, says the regional district has made recycling less convenient for residents.

“If you want people to recycle you have to put in a system that makes it convenient for them,” he told the Star. “When we go to drop it off we don’t want to stand there and shove it all through a little hole.”

Jessen said if a system is made less convenient, people need to be told why, and the regional district didn’t do that.

“When you make a radical change that requires broad public support, I would think you would send some sort of notice to households saying this is going to happen and why.”

Morrison says the regional district did have a thorough communications plan and advertised it through various media. And he said the public will have to get used to the increased inconvenience.

“Given the reduction in carbon footprint and the cost savings, it is a trade off.” he said. “The public has to take a modest extra step. We feel it is reasonable for us to expect.”

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