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Bottles, local organization given the run-around

A fire last month destroyed much of Vernon's recycling facility. The cause could not be determined by investigators.
April 19, 2013 - 1:16 PM

Following a destructive fire at Vernon's recycling facility, bottles are being transported to Kelowna's Cascades Recovery facility. Then back, through Vernon, to Armstrong's bottle depot for sorting.

The bottle run-around bypasses Vernon's Venture Training association, which used to make around $2,000 a month sorting the material then claiming the returns.

"We used the money for honorariums of $10 a day for the staff, and the rest would go to our programs," Ed Columbus, Venture Training manager says.

Venture Training has asked the Regional District of North Okanagan to let them sort the bottles again, but it's complicated.

"The revenue from the bottles is included in what Cascade charges us, and they're giving us a good deal," Nicole Kohnert, manager of regional engineering services says. "I'm not sure what percentage they get after Woody's (Armstrong Bottle Depot) sorts them, but they get some of the revenue."

For Venture Training, it's not just about the money. Staff have a range of developmental disabilities, making many types of work unattainable. Sorting bottles was a perfect fit, and staff genuinely miss their jobs.

"I liked sorting, organizing the recycling," Rhonda McKenzie, a Venture Training participants says.

The job offered a familiar routine, a safe working environment, and a little spending money.

Fingers are crossed that the run-around will be a temporary arrangement.

"Ideally, we'd rebuild the facility and write Venture Training right into the contract," Kohnert says.

Upcoming government changes have pushed things to the brink of uncertainty. The province is shifting the responsibility for end-of-life management of packaging from governments and taxpayers to industry and their consumers, which means new management for Vernon facility. Kohnert says an expression of interest was sent out just a few days before the fire, asking for the contract to be given to Bluewater Project Inc. and Venture Training. Since then, the game has changed.

Kohnert says the district will be brainstorming ideas the next few weeks before making a presentation to the RDNO board of directors May 15 on the future of the site.

In the meantime, RDNO is getting creative finding work for Venture Training.

Litter pick-up, trail maintenance and possibly cleaning new bus shelters in Enderby and Lumby are some of the solutions to keep staff busy.

"We have to keep in mind the skills of the workers though. Some aren't capable of landscaping work, or things like that," Kohnert says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call (250)309-5230.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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