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Waste audits in Nanaimo show more needs to be done to keep recyclables out of landfill

RDN working on mandatory waste separation bylaws for multi-family dwellings and businesses
Nanaimo Recycling Exchange conducted waste audits last fall and reported its findings to the Regional District of Nanaimo’s solid waste management select committee last month. (News Bulletin file)

Waste hauling concerns could hinder effective mandatory waste separation for apartments, condos and businesses in the Regional District of Nanaimo.

The RDN is currently consulting the public on legislation that could require multi-family dwellings and industrial, commercial and institutional organizations to separate waste, similar to single-family homes. To assist in the effort, the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange audited waste streams last fall.

Waste streams were examined at apartments, condos and businesses and samples were classified as garbage, recyclables or organic waste. Information was also gathered through interviews with participants, according to an NRE report.

In a presentation to the RDN solid waste management select committee in July, Jan Hastings, NRE executive director, said there is limited and dwindling access to recycling for the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors. In the RDN, the private sector manages industrial, commercial and institutional waste, Hastings said, meaning service can vary according to waste hauler.

“If haulers can make profit from recycling, they’ll collect and recycle. That can be the situation one year and the next year, if they can’t make a profit from recycling that same product, they’ll abandon the recycling because they can and then they landfill it and that’s exactly how they make their profit,” Hastings said. ““With global recycling markets collapsing … it’s increasing the cost to recycle, so the haulers are paying a higher tip fee to recycle, so landfilling is cheaper.”

This is leading to businesses being “captive” to the regression in service, said Hastings, and they have no say if recyclables are hauled to the landfill. Business owners still want to recycle, she said.

“They are already paying for recycling and garbage hauling services, but they’re getting a low return now and they are now faced with a decision to pay additional costs for other solutions, or just let everything go to the landfill,” said Hastings. “These things going to the landfill, they’re all still recyclable.”

At an RDN board meeting, also in July, staff members were directed to prepare recommendations based on the waste audit report.

Public input is being sought for a waste hauler licensing bylaw, which would mandate licensing and direct licensees to report on monthly volume, as well as offer reduced tipping fees at the landfill.

When asked if he thought there would be buy-in from waste haulers, Ben Geselbracht, RDN director and select committee chairperson, said there is a general understanding that a circular economy must be developed.

“That means keeping materials in use and materials out of landfill and incineration and so these regulations are in line with where the overall industry has to move,” Geselbracht said. “[It] sets a level playing field for everybody in the community and it makes it mandatory for everybody to separate and not simply put into one bin and landfill it.”

He said incentives and the regulations will lead to innovation and economic development around recycling and reuse.

Audit participants in Nanaimo included Norm’s Blinds Installation, Tectonica Management’s subdivision on Mountain Vista Drive, Flying Fish, Wenner Group, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Kiwanis Seniors Village, Franklyn Street Dental, Big Wheel Burger, Friends of Haven Thrift Shop, the Beacon condominium and Well Beings Daycare.

Stellar Bay Shellfish in Bowser, Little Star Children’s Centre and Green Glen Farms, both from Qualicum Beach, and Springford Farms in Nanoose Bay also took part.

For more information on the RDN’s proposed mandatory waste separation and hauler licensing bylaws or to provide feedback, go to

Consultation will take place until Oct. 1.

RELATED: RDN wants separate garbage, food scrap, recycling bins at new buildings

RELATED: RDN calls on Nanaimo Recycling Exchange to audit waste

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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