Recycling move causes concerns for residents

Trent Ernst, Editor


A petition has begun circulating about the town, asking the District to reconsider the decision to move the recycling depot down to the transfer station from its current location in the parking lot behind Lake View Credit Union.

Strangely, the creator of the petition didn’t actually plan to do it. “A couple people asked me if I knew how to create a petition,” says Lucille Jacobsen. “So I did some research on the internet. I typed it out, took it to seniors, ask them if they knew what to do with it, if they had any changes. I went home to make dinner and when I got back, they were already signing it.”

Which is not to say that she’s not concerned about the issue, just that she’s more worried for other people. “It’s hard for some of the seniors,” she says. “There’s a lot of them that don’t drive, so they walk over to the recycling bins every few days carrying their recycling. It’s very harsh, to make a big move like that.”

Currently, the recycling bins are located in a more central location. The farthest anyone has to go to get to the recycling is about 2 km. The farthest residence in town from the dump is just over 4.5 km.

Conversely, for residents of Hartford Court, it’s less than 300 metres to walk to the current bins, while the dump is 3.2 km away.

And seniors are not the only ones who have issues getting out to the dump. “I’ve talked to some of the younger people, and they’ve told me they don’t usually have a car at home, because their husband is out of town working. What do these people do? I’ve heard some people say: ‘hey it’s no big deal to drive to the dump.’ Well, it isn’t for those  who are able, but what about the people who can’t drive, whose husbands are out town?”

She says she’s able to drive, but even for her, it’s not an optimal solution. “I can drive to the dump, but in the winter time I hate that road. One time going down the hill in winter, I was ahead of the gravel truck and I tapped my brakes and I started going sideways. It’s steep and windy and tough to drive.”

She’s worried that the change will lead to more people tossing their recycling in the trash, or worse, in the ditches.

Operations Manager Doug Beale says this change is the start of a new process for the District. “Recycling in Tumbler Ridge has been heavily subsidized by the taxpayer of Tumbler Ridge for quite some time,” says Beale. “Part of my responsibilities as Operations Manager are to ensure that we are as efficient as possible in our operations to reduce the burden on the taxpayer and to also ensure that we are doing what it takes to follow any legislation, bylaw, regulation and every other applicable law.

In 2004, he says, the Province of BC passed Recycling Regulation under the Environmental Management Act, which was amended in May of 2011 to include Packaging and Printed Paper from residents as categories. “Under the Regulation, it is required of producers of Packaging and Printed Paper (PPP) to take responsibility for the end of life of their products. In essence it is the responsibility of the producers of PPP to accept the recycled material at their cost and not the user or in our case the taxpayer.”

Last year, in May, the organization Mixed Materials of BC (MMBC) launched a program to collect PPP from residences and communities on behalf of the producers. Beale says they are mandated by the Province of BC to collect and process at least 75 percent of the PPP products.

However, the District of Tumbler Ridge is well behind that target. “We collect and process less than 30 percent of PPP products,” says Beale.

While the program was launched last year, the District did not sign on at the time. “Due to unanswered questions and concerns at the time of the program launch, the District of TR did not sign onto the program and continued with the current operation and third party broker of the recycled products,” says Beale. However, this is not sustainable in the long run. “Currently the cost of recycling is much greater than the revenue received,” he says. “This is due in part to the collection processing and shipment of materials. Improvements have been made in the last few years, the cost to recycle is costly.”

So recently, the District signed on board to the MMBC program. While the program will accept more types of recycling at a lower cost to the District, Beale says the rules are stricter. “There is a requirement by the brokers that there cannot be more than three percent contamination (products that are not recyclable, mixed with wrong material, garbage etc…) in the recycled products.”

Right now, contamination rates run at closer to 20 to 30 percent, says Beale. This is because the current collection depot is unmanned. “This required a substantial amount of work by District employees to sort and process the recycled materials. This creates longer processing times and drives costs up. Also with the current system all products other than cardboard was bagged which is inefficient in managing and shipping.”

With the District of Tumbler Ridge moving towards being an MMBC Depot, one of their requirements is to have a manned collection site. “This will allow operators to control the amount of contamination that is collected and to offer education in recycling at the site. It also allows the District to process, co-mingle and bale almost all of the products, which will improve the efficiencies in the processing and shipment of the products. We will also be able to collect and ship Styrofoam products which currently goes to our landfills.”

Beale says on the surface, this doesn’t help the District get to its recycling goal of 75 percent. He admits that, for now, it could actually impact recycling negatively. However, says Beale, it is the first step towards the District’s ultimate goal: curbside recycling. “This is the goal of the District and it is the mandate of MMBC to increase the recovery rate to 75 percent of PPP products.”

Can’t the District just keep the current bins and move directly to curbside? Beale says the cost would be prohibitive. “When the District enters into discussions with MMBC in regards to curbside recycling, part of those discussions will involve financial incentives per household, which further reduces the burden on the taxpayer. If the District was to offer curbside on its own there would be a substantial cost to the taxpayer with no guarantees of any incentives offered once we commence our own program.”

Beale says there has been a lot of work done to improve the way the District collects recycling, but as it is, the District still relies on the proper collection from the residents of our community to help reduce that work and cost.

“I am confident that most people that are serious about recycling will in fact continue to do so realizing that we are working to improve the collection and processing by working towards curbside recycling,” says Beale. “We as a community have to do more for our planet and by recycling we reduce the amount of waste going to our landfills and potential damage to our environment.”

Jacobsen says she loves the idea of curbside recycling. She says this hasn’t been really conveyed to the residents. “I just got told they were talking about moving the bins down to the dump, but that’s the only thing that I heard. I didn’t hear if it had been taken before council.”

She says that curbside pickup would be great if and when it comes, but she is still concerned this move will be tough for many residents. “We just want to get it out there, because the seniors are concerned, because it’s hard on them. People with mobility issues are going to have trouble doing recycling.

“It’s a good spot where it is.”