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Next phase begins for new resource-recovery centre in qathet region

“It’s got to be a community resource beyond just dealing with garbage and recycling.” ~ qathet Regional District board chair Patrick Brabazon

With rolling hills, active transportation corridors, ponds, bridges and botanical backdrops, the setting for qathet Regional District’s (qRD) resource-recovery centre looks like a park.

However, in the next phase of the project, buildings will be constructed to help modify the way residents deal with solid waste, and hopefully, keep as much solid waste as possible out of landfill.

After a tour of the facility for media and community stakeholders on July 19, Mike Wall, regional district manager of asset management and strategic initiatives, said the vision for the resource-recovery centre is one-stop shopping. He said the full build-out of the facility will provide the opportunity for residents to have every opportunity to divert materials from the landfill.

Efforts will be made to bring the region into being as close to net zero waste as possible. There will be an imperative to recycle and reuse as much of the material as possible to avoid transporting it 770 kilometres to Rebanco, Washington, to be landfilled.

“We want to provide every extended producer responsibility opportunity, as well as every local collector’s wishes as well,” said Wall. “We’ve done some testing of these things at the depot behind RONA and it’s proven to be successful.

“For instance, for hobby farmers who want egg cartons, we don’t have to put them into the regular recycling stream, they can go to the hobby farmers. We’ve had people who want to collect cork for art works, so we’ve definitely engaged locally and tried to create collections that meet the needs or wants of locals.”

The process of diverting materials is already paying dividends. Wall said during the waste transfer station closure, metal was set aside and has been used by a local artisan to start a jewellery line.

“It’s pretty amazing stuff,” added Wall. “The whole project is incorporating that mantra.”

He said the primary project, for which qRD received $6 million from the federal strategic priorities fund, focused on the landfill closure and cleanup of the site, plus its restoration.

Site structures

The building piece will involve several structures, starting with free recycling, which will be the first building residents will come up to when they drive to the site. Wall said it will house the extended producer responsibility program, which is coordinated by Recycle BC, and various other product collections. He said it will also house and facilitate any local collections wanted by members of the community.

The facility will also have an education centre with the Let’s Talk Trash team office and handle packaging of collected materials and shipping of them, as well as curbside recycling collection.

After that, residents will go across to the scale building, be weighed in and continue on to the next portion of the facility, which is heavier material collections in larger bins. Wall said there may be some costs associated for dropping off the materials, but they may still be able to be repurposed or recycled. He said in proximity, there will be a small building for staff and a covered area for education tours so people can come and witness the journey the region has been on, from the incinerator, to the waste transfer station, to burying ash and materials throughout the site, and what’s been done to clean it up.

“There will be a view of the new state-of-the-art facility and how we are doing things today, so it will provide the full story,” said Wall.

After that building, there will be an ocean legacy coastal shoreline cleanup building that comes from grant funding accessed from the federal government, according to Wall.

“We’re honoured that qRD has been recognized for our work and the regional board’s initiative in supporting our volunteers in beach cleanup for many years now,” said Wall. “Ocean legacy got this grant funding for us to create a lean-to building to have this collection.”

After the shoreline cleanup building, there will be collections where people can back up their vehicles and put solid waste materials in the containers.

Wall said the regional district has applied for funding for a commercial waste transfer building and hopes to hear something back in the fall about this potential project. He said that would be to handle the residual waste collected at curbside and taken to landfill, “which we hope becomes less and less with the opportunities provided by the new facility.”

“It’s a one-stop facility to make it easier on people who are making the effort,” said Wall. “The end result will be transformative.”

Community resource

qRD board chair Patrick Brabazon said creating a community amenity at the site has been the vision of regional directors.

“We’ll see how that plays out as we develop the site, but there are things like botanical gardens that have been suggested and other amenities, too, that could develop over time after we get the resource-recovery centre up and running,” said Brabazon. “It’s got to be a community resource beyond just dealing with garbage and recycling.”

Brabazon said when the regional district started the process of creating the centre, lots of ideas were floated.

“We’re on the right track and doing well,” said Brabazon.

He added that he has every confidence in regional district staff and the Let’s Talk Trash team in terms of helping implement the project.

“They’ve done their homework, they’ve been around the new world, and they are trying to bring it here,” said Brabazon. “I am so impressed with Mike [Wall] and the Let’s Talk Trash team. They have done a superb job.”

The property will be aesthetically pleasing as well as accessible to the community again, according to Wall. An interesting feature of the new centre will be the retaining of the old incinerator structure as a reminder about how far the region has come in terms of dealing with its solid waste.

“We have to remember that the site has had a yellow gate locked for many, many years, because of the materials that were strewn about and buried,” said Wall. “Now, with the efforts of the landfill closure and all of the site cleanup, we’re getting closer to opening those gates for the community and for them to have access to that property rather than just having it as a stale piece of property that has to be locked up.”

Final phase

Wall said the first two phases of the project have been completed and the final phase is the build-out of the facility’s buildings. He said detailed design of those buildings should be wrapped up at the end of July and the regional district is looking toward September to put bids out to tender for construction of the different buildings.

Construction may begin in the fall of this year but 2022 will be a very active year, said Wall.

“Our hopes now are that we could be commissioning the facility in 2023,” he added. “It will be the first to have the full story of site cleanup and a public amenity that interweaves around a new-age, state-of-the-art solid waste facility. It’s dynamic and a couple of steps ahead of what other local governments have done, from our understanding.”

Brabazon said when completed, he expects the resource-recovery centre to be among the leading installations in the province. He said regional district staff have already found innovative solutions to aspects of land reclamation and the efforts have already been recognized provincially in several publications.

“This is going to be a show and tell operation,” said Brabazon.

He said the intention of the facility is to divert more material being barged to Washington State and the desire is to get as much material out of the waste stream as possible.

“We don’t want to export our garbage,” he added.

Management and operation of the facility will be a hybrid model. It will have qRD employees in some key positions, but operation of the facility will be put out to the private sector under contract.

“It addresses that we have some private sector folks who are very knowledgeable about aspects of solid waste operations,” said Wall, “and some have been involved in helping with the development of the solid waste plan and even into design details of this facility.”