Tumbler Ridge looks to improve recycling

Trent Ernst, Editor


People have been recycling in Tumbler Ridge since the 1990s, but according to a recent proposal by Operations Manager, it’s time to step up our game.

Beale came before Council at the March 11 Policies and Priorities meeting to discuss the history of recycling in the District, as well as to ask Council to consider entering into a partnership with the Peace River Regional District to become the depot for collection of materials for Multi Material BC (MMBC).

In 2011, the Province amended the Recycling Regulations around Packaging and Printed Paper (PPP), and a non-profit agency, MMBC, was formed to work with local governments, businesses and non-profit organizations to provide collection services for PPP.

In 2013, MMBC approached the District introducing the program and a financial incentive to the District to offer curbside residential collection of PPP.

The District looked at the proposal at the time, but due to a variety of issues, was unable to complete an evaluation of the program, and, when it came into effect in May of 2014, the District was not a part of MMBC.

But since that time, says Beale, he has been working to resolve this issue, and to “move our recycling forward to reduce the costs to the taxpayer.” Beale says improvements have been made over the last year, but it was obvious “more changes were required before we could be part of the MMBC program and benefit from the program.”

Beale says the MMBC program would benefit the community. “The PRRD has been in discussions with the District in regards to becoming a depot of MMBC,” says Beale. “This would allow the District—with some changes to our operation—to reduce the cost of recycling and perhaps move towards curbside recycling which would further divert recyclable materials from going to our land fill.”

The amount of money the District makes on recycling is small. “Revenue is quite low compared to operating costs,” says Beale. The cost for operating the recycling program in town last year was just under $150,000, but the revenue generated was less than $50,000.

“One of the big costs for us is the sorting,” says Beale. “As we currently have an unmanned facility, there’s significant sorting due to materials being deposited in the wrong bin.”

Of course, not everything the District does is about making money, says Beale, and this is no exception. “Recycling benefits environment, but it also diverts material from landfill.”

In order to make the leap to a MMBC facility, says Beale, Tumbler Ridge would have to have a manned facility, to make sure the materials were sorted correctly. This would mean removing the unmanned depot located downtown, and having all recyclables delivered to the Recycle Building, located down at the Transfer Station.

Currently items are dropped off downtown, then brought to the Recycle Building and sorted and packaged up.

While a manned recycle station might seem to be a more expensive proposition, Beale says this isn’t necessarily the case. He says MMBC takes other materials than who the District currently deals with, which would increase the revenue coming in. As well, the current system does require a lot of manpower to deal with the sorting. Having a manned station would allow staff to direct people to the correct bins, reducing the amount of handling needed for the materials.

“One of the biggest issues with recycling is contamination,” says Beale. “Which is when people put the wrong material in the wrong container.” Beale says the people the District currently deal with charge the District when contaminated material is shipped, which means a loss in revenue or an increase in time needed to sort. “If we become an MMBC depot, it must be a manned depot to cut down on contamination and ensure processing those materials.”

Beale says there would have to be some major changes to accommodate this. “Currently the Transfer Station is open three days a week. We are working on opening up more hours. This would help with collection, too.”

But this, he says, would be temporary pain for long term gain. “Part of this partnership would be to get on a curbside waiting list,” says Beale. “If we did that, there’d be less people going down there, because they’d just put it on the curbside. And curbside is better for the community. Right now we’re recycling about 30 percent of PPP. If we did curbside, my guess is we could get up to 50 or 60 percent.”

Of course, that would also raise the costs to the District, as there would need to be a vehicle for collecting the recycling. Beale admits the District is still crunching the numbers, but thought it important to get this in front of Council now. “There’s a whole gamut of considerations of costs,” he says. “The important thing right now is to consider the recommendation that we go into partnership with the regional district to become an MMBC community. It would cut down on some costs, as we wouldn’t need the employees to go pick up from the depot where it is now. During the transition period, I don’t foresee an increase in cost.”

Beale says right now, he doesn’t have all the information needed to know what the final cost of going to curbside would be, but for now, he says, he just wants Tumbler Ridge to get into the MMBC system. “This presentation is just to get council’s approval to partner with the Regional District,” he says. “The transition cost would be minimal if any; I’m hoping to reduce cost. To go to curbside would require a lot of analysis, but I don’t see us becoming a curbside community in 2015; there’s 70 communities and businesses on the list ahead of us.”