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Absence of PQB recycling options may impact RDN’s 90 per cent diversion goal

Recycle BC currently talking to potential providers
Recycle BC organized popup depots last summer to make up for the absence of depots in Parksville Qualicum Beach. (Michael Briones photo)

The Regional District of Nanaimo has a goal of diverting 90 per cent of waste from its landfill areas.

But with the absence of a recycling options in the Parksville Qualicum Beach and area, that goal might be harder to achieve.

Since March 2020, residents have been told to collect their recyclables and bring them to depots in Nanaimo and Courtenay. Some regional district residents, who don’t want to drive to Nanaimo or Courtenay for various reasons, now include materials that should go to recycling with their regular garbage. They end up in the landfill areas.

RDN’s manager of solid waste services, Larry Gardner, said how the current situation is impacting diversion has been difficult to gauge because Recycle BC has not provided statistics on collection for the area.

“In the absence of that information, it is really difficult to make any determination on how and to what extent diversion has been impacted,” said Gardner. “We do know that there is a strong tie between convenience and recycling. On this basis, it is reasonable to assume less material will get recycled in the (Parksville Qualicum Beach) area with less convenience in accessing a depot.”

Gardner also explained collected materials such as film plastic and polystyrene are very light and make them difficult to monitor how much they are affecting the collection at RDN’s Church Road Transfer Station.

“So a large volume of this material entering the waste stream will not have such a significant impact to tonnage which is what we track,” said Gardner.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s municipal solid waste tracking data in the province showed the RDN’s disposal rate dropped from an average of 397 kilograms of solid waste per person to 389. Gardner cautions the figure the RDN reports is different from the provincial number as they don’t include in their calculation controlled waste that is not amenable to diversion.

The RDN, Gardner pointed out, has been consistently ranked as one of the three regional districts with the lowest per capita disposal.

David Lefebvre, Recycle BC’s director of public affairs, understands the frustration of residents. Their efforts to establish a recycling depot in the region have been slowed by the ongoing pandemic but Lefebvre said Recycle BC is currently negotiating with two potential providers.

“What we are mandated to do is provide a depot within 45 minutes.” said Lefebvre. “So right now the closest depot for Parksville is approximately 20 minutes away and closest depot for Qualicum is approximately 30 minutes away. That said, we appreciate the residents do want to have a depot that’s closer. And I understant that residents are concerned. The important thing for residents to know is we are working diligently. We are approaching every potential partner to try to find someone who would be willing to take on the collection of materials.”

Lefebvre also said they understand the challenges posed in travelling out of the region to dispose their recycling. He hopes residents will use nearby recycling depots instead of opting to throw their recycling in the garbage. He also pointed out the RDN’s curbside services also accept most of the materials.

Lefebvre said the public needs to know that huge quantities of commercial materials will be turned away. The ministry has indicated it does not have the authority to compel Recycling BC to provide depot services in the Parksville Qualicum Beach and area.

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Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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