For the past few years the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) has been attempting to turn its rural residential recycling over to Recycle BC, the agency that runs and pays for rural recycling programs in most of the province including the City of Nelson.
This would theoretically mean a big cost saving for residents of the RDCK because under the current system they are taxed about $1 million per year for recycling collection.
Under an agreement with Recycle BC, the manufacturers of the recycled material, not RDCK residents, would pay for Recycle BC’s collection and transport of rural recycled materials, as is the case now in the City of Nelson.
But how much this would reduce the RDCK’s costs is an open question, according to the RDCK’s Uli Wolf, because Recycle BC is unwilling to cover the entire cost of providing a full service, and the regional government would have to take up the slack.
Over the past year, the RDCK and Recycle BC have negotiated a plan, not signed yet, that would see 12 fenced and staffed depots — fencing and staffing are requirements of Recycle BC — throughout the regional district, funded by Recycle BC, with an as-yet-undetermined number of satellite depots funded and run by the RDCK, which would deliver collected material from its satellites to the 12 main depots.
The 12 main depots are as much as Recycle BC is prepared to pay for, says Wolf, although the satellite depots are needed to provide proper service.
“If we continue to have the same level of service in regard to the same number of depots we had before, there would be very limited saving,” he said.
‘The Gray Creek Store is not Walmart’
The RDCK has been working out the numbers and getting ready to sign a contract with Recycle BC even though the financial benefits are not what they had hoped.
But now there is a new snag.
Recycle BC recently announced that it will not accept any material in its new depots if it comes from industrial, commercial or institutional (ICI) sources.
This has been their rule all along: the agency is not mandated to take waste from big waste-emitters like Walmart or Celgar, who hire private contractors to take away their recycling.
“But the Gray Creek Store is not Walmart,” says RDCK board member Garry Jackman, pointing out that for such a small business to hire their own recycling contractor is not realistic.
The RDCK has always allowed small businesses to deposit their paper and packaging in its bins. Most notably, businesses in Nelson often deposit their recycling at the Lakeside depot and at the Grohman depot.
But because Recycle BC is going to crack down on ICI, any material in the recycling that appears to be from a commercial source could be rejected and the RDCK penalized with a fine.
So the RDCK would have to set up and pay for a separate recycling stream for ICI materials, cutting further into any tax saving for residents.
Considering all this, would it be financially worthwhile to sign a contract with Recycle BC at all?
At the RDCK’s August board meeting, numbers and options will be presented and the board will decide, among other things, whether to sign the agreement, what level of service will be provided at various kinds of depots, whether the RDCK should provide a service for ICI materials and where, at what level, and at what cost to whom.
Asking the province to fix the problem
Meanwhile the RDCK has voted to take a two-part resolution to the annual conference of the Union of BC Municipalities in September.
The first part asks the provincial government to include ICI materials in the Recycle BC mandate across the province. In other words, users of paper and packaging in industry, commerce, and institutions would pay Recycle BC to pick up and process their material rather than hiring their own contractors.
Wolf says ICI materials across the board was always the long-term plan for Recycle BC in any event.
In the second part of the resolution, the RDCK board will ask the provincial government to require that certain products such as writing paper, toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels, and packaging be made of recycled material. This is needed, the RDCK resolution says, because markets for recycled materials are drying up worldwide and this would create a new market for recycled packaging.
The resolution goes further to ask that the province eliminate “subsidies on virgin materials such as oil to create a more level playing field, reduce the carbon footprint and revitalize the already consumed cardboard and packaging waste.”
The resolution, like many others to be brought to the conference on many different subjects, will be voted on by BC municipalities. If it passes, the UBCM will lobby the provincial government for the change.