Three Things Tumbler Can’t Recycle

Lynsey Kitching

About every month Tumbler Ridge recycles 52 bundles of cardboard. Here's an example of their size.
Cardboard is Tumbler Ridge’s number one recyclable through the district and we get $140.80 back for every kg we return. The last pick up was on November 12, 2012 and we recycled 53 bales (at 900 pounds each) or 37,554.6 kg of cardboard, translating into $5,287.69 back to the community. Though this sounds great, not all recyclable materials are this profitable or desirable to buyers.
According to Sean Shea, Public Works Foreman for the district, the taxpayers here in Tumbler Ridge do a lot of recycling. He says, “From when it started five or six years ago even longer, it’s increased majorly. It seems like the residents are co-operating big time. Almost everyday the downtown containers are full. Jam packed all the time.”
Shea was kind enough to take Tumbler Ridge News out and reveal the ins and outs of the district recycling program here in town.
We sell our recyclable materials to companies who want to buy them. The main materials getting picked up are cardboard, paper, plastics, oils, batteries and tires. Eco Depot from Fort St. John comes to do pickups for our cardboard, paper and plastics. They schedule the trucks for pickup.
BlueWater is the trucking company that hauls for Capital Paper Recycling from Edmonton, the cardboard is shipped to anywhere in the US.
Depending on the best prices of recycling at the time and date for cardboard, it could end up going to Tacamo WA, Seattle WA or Springfield OR. It all depends on Capital Paper Recycling. Shea says, “Eventually it goes back to the Chinese marketplace. A year or two ago the bottom end fell right out of recycling and we had to stockpile it, we couldn’t get rid of it, nobody wanted it.”
Even when cardboard is in high demand, it doesn’t mean all recyclables are desirable. There are some materials that don’t get reused at all and some of these might surprise you. Such as, we can’t find anyone to come and pick up the glass.
Shea explains, “Glass is just sand anyway, so we go down there and we crush it into a concrete area where we store our concrete. If we start saying we’re not going to take any glass, the resident’s would just throw it in the garbage. Glass has a lot of weight and it fills up the trash bins. We are recycling it, but it’s a landfill system and it will never fill up because it’s in a big concrete disposal area.”
“We’re controlled by the outside about what we can do with our recyclables. If they’re not going to come and pick it up, then we have to stockpile it or garbage it,” he continues, “I don’t want to garbage it. We’re at a point in time where it’s the taxpayer’s responsibility to do recycling.”

On top of the average recyclables, the district also accepts batteries, which are picked up for profit, tires, which are picked up for profit, oil, which is picked up for profit and paint, which is not.
Shea says, “The paints get stacked on a palette and stored. Paints are very hard to get rid of because nobody wants it. We’re stockpiling it right now. The paint is a pain my butt. It’s got to be sorted properly. Oil’s gotta be separated from the water paints. Imagine how much wasted paint we get. It’s unreal. If we had a supplier to come in even once a year to take our paints away, would be great.”
The final product that is difficult for the district to recycle is electronics. For example used televisions. Shea says, “Ewaste, we can’t get rid of, t.v.’s and computers. It’s a shame. The toilets we’ll take the metal out of them and throw in the landfill, because it’s only dust too, the porcelain. T.v.’s go to the landfill, we have nowhere to stock pile them. It’s a sin. The kids come down and beat the glass right out of them.”
Though we can’t recycle everything, Tumbler Ridge still has a good reputation with the Peace District in terms of our recycling practices. Shea says, “We do pretty well. The Regional district says we have one of the best transfer stations in the Peace region. We try to keep it as clean as possible. I guess one of the reasons is it’s a transfer station, not a landfill.
This is a big step up from where we were in the earlier days when we would burn everything. Shea remembers, “In earlier days we had an incinerator and we burnt everything. Sometimes we would bury our ash. That was years ago. Garbage is a nuisance. We’re not quite there yet to take responsibility for our own stuff, even though we’re getting better.”
A cool thing the district does to save some money is to recycle used concrete. Shea says, “Concrete is a clean material. We try to get our asphalt grinded up so we can use it again. When we’re going to do roads, we’ll ask the contractor to grind up the asphalt for us.”
Shea’s favourite part of the transfer station is the giant pile of compost in the back corner. He explains while driving the truck on the tour, “My pride and joy is the compost. We take all the grass and the horse manure and try to make compost for the community, works pretty good,” he continues, “There’s always new ways to do things. We’re open to anything that’s there. We get money back on it. What it costs the tax payers, I don’t really know. I know there’s a budget there and we get so much for cardboard, plastics, batteries. I don’t think we’ll come ahead, but it’s a service.”
The system with only a few workers is never­ ending and continues to grow. The workers work hard. Shea thinks the system runs pretty smoothly. “Overall the system runs pretty good. I tip my hat off to the residents here because the majority of them do their part, and the businesses. We provide the extra service, which isn’t on our mandate, but we run around to the businesses, schools and post office and collect their recyclables and bring them here. It’s not really our responsibility to do that, but we do it anyways.”
Something Shea is hoping for is new recycling containers for the downtown area. He says, “I think the amount of recycling has gone up. As long as the district provides a way and a means to dispose of the recycles, we’ll do pretty good. I think our next stage is trying to find a permanent location for all of this and new bins for the downtown, sometime esthetic looking. I feel the parking lot is ok. We’ve moved the recycling station three times but you can’t take it away too far because a lot of people walk downtown and they dispose of them. Take that ability away and they’ll garbage it.”