Taxpayers in the Regional District of Central Kootenay will probably be on the hook for rural recycling for at least another three years. At least that’s the length of contract for depot service in a request for proposals the RDCK is finalizing. The present contracts expire in June.
While the district hoped to sign on with industry stewardship group Multi-Material BC, resource recovery manager Mike Morrison says it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.
“We expected back when we were denied entry into the program last year that there would be a possibility of joining in 2015, but MMBC has informed us that is not the case,” he told 103.5 Juice FM. “We figure that three years is probably a realistic window for intake.”
Morrison said they still intend to eventually have all of their rural recycling handled by MMBC. The cost of rural recycling in the RDCK, including 27 depots, has been pegged at just under $1 million annually.
Allen Langdon, MMBC’s managing director, said the organization presently has over 1,000 member producers and serves over 120 municipalities and electoral areas through a mix of curbside pickup and depots. It also has a waiting list of another 70 collectors — a mix of municipalities, regional districts, and private sector depots — hoping to sign up.
However, many producers remain hold-outs to the program for a variety of reasons. Consequently, MMBC can’t yet afford to expand its services.
“We continue to work with the Ministry of Environment, who are enforcing the regulations and trying to bring them into compliance,” Langdon said. “As we start to add more companies, we’ll be able to add more communities. Our ultimate objective is to have a consistent program across the province.”
Although Langdon wasn’t sure of an exact timeline, he noted they recently launched a depot in Terrace. MMBC also took on household recycling in Langley and began providing curbside pickup in Revelstoke at the start of the year. Langdon said deciding priority areas for further expansion depends on a range of factors, but those that don’t already have a lot of service are higher up the list.
Presently MMBC provides curbside pick-up in Nelson, Castlegar, Kaslo, and Nakusp, but collection rates in the latter two villages haven’t been as high as hoped because the RDCK still operates parallel depots intended to serve rural residents.
“With the curbside program people have to get used to putting material out at a certain time every two weeks, whereas the depots are open every day and have long established patterns of using them,” Morrison said. “That’s hard to break.”
Langdon called Nakusp and Kaslo “unique situations,” explaining that in most areas MMBC serves, the depots provide a place to drop off materials that curbside does not collect, such as styrofoam, glass, or plastic film.
“The communities where we have both curbside and depots is actually a very good model,” he said. “It provides access to a broader range of materials and depots serve areas outside the municipalities.”
The RDCK was initially hesitant to join MMBC for fear that it could mean a substantially reduced number of rural depots because MMBC insists they be staffed, whereas many of the RDCK’s are not.
Langdon said that requirement is because their analysis shows unmanned depots have high contamination rates and “you end up picking up as much garbage as recycling,” which makes the recyclables less valuable.
He added that while exact figures will be provided in the organization’s first annual report, he is comfortable with both the amount they are collecting and their contamination rates.
“Both are exceeding expectations,” he said. “We’re collecting upwards of 75 per cent of materials our members put in the marketplace. The good news is the program’s working really well and collecting more material than we intended. Now on the other side we need to recruit more members.”