Employees at the Parksville Bottle and Recycling Depot say they are being verbally and physically harassed by people who believe the staff should be sorting their recyclables.
The depot, at 611A Alberni Hwy., is a privately owned facility operating under the Recycle BC recycling guide.
The depot is a free collection service and not a sorting service, said owner (for 25 years) Louise Tyler and her husband and operations manager, Neil Tyler.
If the depot accepts recyclables that are either contaminated with food or not sorted properly they could be fined or lose their licence.
“I only get paid for the product separated… we get paid by weight,” Neil said. “So if [the product] is separated I can take that but if it’s not I can’t take that, and [customers] get very angry at us and call us some pretty profound names… just for us doing our job.”
Neil added that staff aren’t even allowed to go through and sort people’s recyclables if they wanted to because of safety issues.
“There could be broken glass, needles, anything,” Neil said. “Even when you explain that to them, they’re very angry.”
Neil said employees have quit because of constant harassment from unhappy customers and that Louise was recently punched in the face by someone who was unclear about the sorting process.
“It was the first time in 25 years I’ve had to phone the police,” Louise said. “Employees are hard to find, too. We have lost a few and we can’t replace them so the summer gets very challenging because our population doubles.”
The depot is not affiliated with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). Neil said the RDN collects the recycling from the blue boxes left outside residences and sorts it, which he said can sometimes make people think the recycling depot should sort, too.
Neil and Louise believe the public needs to educate themselves on what they can and can’t bring to the recycling depot for collection and if there is an item that can’t be returned to the facility than it’s the consumer’s job to dispose of it, not the depot’s.
“I think it’s something we have to learn as a community and do the right thing,” Louise said. “If you’re not happy about recycling then you should change as a consumer how you’re purchasing because the producers are going to still keep packaging.”
Because the depot is so diligent in having customers sort their own recycling, they have a less than one per cent contamination rate, which Neil said gets them a lot of praise from Recycle BC.
“If we wanted to be less diligent we could take that chance of losing our licence or getting fined just to put a smile on your face. We take more pride in being that one per cent and doing it right because that’s the job you’ve asked me to do,” he said. “It’s a thankless job for trying to do the right thing.”
To find out exactly what the Parksville depot accepts, visit recyclebc.ca or pick up a brochure from the facility.