Skip to content

Recycling shifts this month

Not-for-profit replaces blue-box program
Chris Bolster

A fundamental shift in the way residential recycling is handled in British Columbia is underway and preparations are being finalized for the May 19 switchover in Powell River.

Multi-Material BC (MMBC) is a not-for-profit, industry-led organization which is in the process of taking over blue-box programs from municipalities and recouping the costs from companies that generate packaging and printed paper. It is one of more than 20 extended producer responsibility programs in the province that handle products like batteries, light bulbs and used engine oil.

MMBC is governed by the Ontario-based Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance’s board of directors, which includes representation from Unilever Canada, Metro, Walmart, Tim Hortons Inc., Loblaw Companies Ltd., Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada and Proctor and Gamble.

In the same vein as the polluter-pay principle, MMBC shifts responsibility for packaging and waste disposal from taxpayers and municipalities to industry producers and their consumers.

The changes come as a result of the provincial government’s 2011 update on recycling regulations to boost the recycling rate of packaging and printed paper to 75 per cent from 52 per cent.

The program will allow residents to recycle new categories of packaging that are not commonly included in existing curbside or depot recycling programs including milk cartons, plastic foam (Styrofoam) packaging, plant pots, aluminum foil packaging, certain types of plastic film packaging and drink cups.

Municipal governments were given the choice whether they wanted to join the program, opt out and keep their own curbside collection or wait and sign up later.

City of Powell River chose to wait over concerns of the terms of the agreement and the fines it could incur if materials or their streams were contaminated. Powell River Regional District (PRRD), however, decided to join the program.

Despite not signing up for MMBC there will still be some changes to the city’s residential blue-box program. Residents will no longer be required to sort their recycling and it can be put all together into a tote outside for pickup, said Shawn Cator, City of Powell River manager of operational services. He said there would not be any changes to the current recycling schedule.

Styrofoam and glass, however, will need to be taken to a depot for drop-off.

PRRD manager of community services Mike Wall said the regional district is currently in the process of preparing for the launch of the new program.

Under MMBC, staffed rural residential recycling depots will replace the green bins which have been in use here for the past 24 years. The new depots will be open from 9 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday.

“The collection depots are going to be an improvement,” said Wall, citing one at Lund, which will help with the increase in tourism during the summer.

Powell River waste disposal and recycling company Sunshine Disposal & Recycling has won the contract to construct and operate the rural drop-offs.

The depots will have six pallets with megabags for sorted materials and include fibre (paper and cardboard), containers, plastic bags and overwrap, glass, Styrofoam and coloured Styrofoam.

Depots will be located in Gillies Bay on Texada Island, behind Texada Community Hall, and at Van Anda across from the gas station. In Powell River depots will be located at Augusta Recyclers, the Black Point Store, Tla’amin (Sliammon) Nation’s Salish Centre and in Lund behind the Lund Hotel. A depot is also being set up on Lasqueti Island at the Free Store.

Staff had a training session Monday, May 12, from PRRD’s Let’s Talk Trash Team so that they are able to help residents sort their recyclables at the depots and help prevent contamination.

Contamination means not only materials which have not been properly cleaned, but also items in the wrong bags, said Let’s Talk Trash’s Tai Uhlmann.

She and her colleagues Inger-Lise Burns and Abby McLennan will be on site at the depots helping staff and residents during the changeover, she said.

There’s a three per cent cap on contamination, Uhlmann added. Fines of $5,000 will be levied if any load is delivered with over that rate of contamination.

Soon after the switchover to MMBC was announced, the regional district received a lot of feedback from residents who were not pleased about the potential elimination of green bins from Town Centre Mall, said Wall.

He contacted MMBC to see if the original contract could be amended to add an additional depot, but was told that nothing could be done. However, he was able to convince MMBC to allow a rural depot to replace the mall green bins, but it wouldn’t be recognized. The regional district would have to transport recyclables to a recognized rural depot for pickup.

“There’s going to be one rural depot that’s going to have outstanding volume,” said Wall.

Wall said this arrangement will likely be in place for six months before PRRD has the chance to renegotiate its contract and have the mall depot recognized formally.

PRRD has been working with management and owners of the mall to find a suitable location for the depot. Though close to being given the go-ahead, the depot has not been completely cleared. Sunshine Disposal owner Daryl McCormack said that once they are told to go ahead it will take a few days to prepare the site and set it up. It will not likely be open for May 19, he added.

“We’re not going to take illegal dumping,” Wall said. If garbage is persistently left, one option the regional district has would be to close the depot. “We want everyone to know and respect the sites. We want our community to look clean and do our best with recycling.”

If garbage is piled up outside the recycling depot, it becomes an added expense for the regional district for clean up. “If you see someone not being respectable speak up,” he said.

McCormack said his company is looking at installing security cameras at the sites in the future for monitoring.

Depot staff will be collecting feedback from the public, said Wall, and operations at the depots will be fine tuned after the first month.

Both the city and regional district are mailing out information about the recycling changes to residents.