PENTICTON - A recent change in recycling methods announced by Recycle B.C. could end up being costly for some Okanagan and Similkameen residents, but the regional district wants to intervene.
The announcement comes after the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen spent much of last year consulting the public about waste collection, in addition to renegotiating a new collection contract.
Residents living within the district could end up paying more for recyclable waste collection following the Recycle B.C. announcement in October 2017 of its intention to require all local governments to supply either blue boxes or carts to all households by July 2020.
The announcement came as a surprise to the regional district, which last summer engaged in public consultation to find out how residents wanted to handle their recyclables, most of whom agreed to continue with the collection of blue bags, as opposed to using a district supplied bin.
The district also inked a seven-year waste collection contract with Waste Connections of Canada last year.
Regional district solid waste coordinator Cameron Baughen says it’s too soon to say what effect the move would have on the waste contractor’s cost, but there will be a change in capital costs as the district will be forced to supply recyclable containers to residents.
He says the move could save residents money on plastic recycling bags, but they would still have to pay for a district-supplied container.
Baughen says he will be asking the regional district board to make a request to the Ministry of Environment to intercede in the Recycle B.C., formerly Multi Materials B.C., decision at this week’s board meeting on Feb. 15.
“There has been no final decision by Recycle B.C. yet, and this will give us a chance to have some say,” Baughen says.
Baughen says Recycle B.C.’s announcement is being made well in advance of the July 2020 deadline, and does have merit, because the change is meant to put an end to the collection of soft plastics by eliminating the collection of recyclables in plastic bags.
“The recycle market is getting worse and worse, as contamination levels of plastics with paper are being lowered and less and less tolerance for contamination is allowed for markets in China,” he says, adding plastic film is one of the worst contaminants as it wraps around other recyclables and equipment, sometimes causing damage.
One of the district’s biggest concerns about a switch to bins or boxes is the prospect of wind blown recyclable materials creating an environmental issue in the rural areas.
“The potential for material left in open plastic boxes is a big issue for us, especially in the Similkameen, because of the winds there,” he says, adding lids on blue boxes or boxes containing reusable bags might answer the problem.
There is also some uncertainty about how well the present collection system will work if a switch is made to district-supplied bins.
Baughen says the district also faces a further disadvantage in having to renegotiate a new contract with its waste contractor.
“We don’t have the options available to do this as easily as if we were just entering into a new contract. Negotiating in mid-stream is never easy for a local government. It’s a concern we’re trying to address with our waste hauler and Recycle B.C.,” he says.
Baughen says the issue is a province-wide one, and any change made by Recycle B.C. will apply to every municipality in the province.
Baughen notes Recycle B.C. is not expected to make a final decision before the end of the month. He says Thursday’s presentation to the board is intended to make the request to the ministry to have the district’s needs considered and provide a heads up to board directors of the possibility of further changes to the region’s waste collection program in the next two years.
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