Today’s Poll

Recycling changes in the works for Nelson

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
June 18th, 2013

The city and the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) will be making crucial decisions this summer that will lead to changes to the curbside residential recycling system in Nelson.

Starting in May of 2014, Nelson’s taxpayers will no longer have to pay for pick-up or recycling of paper and packaging. The manufacturers who produce the waste will have to do that, as required by B.C.’s Ministry of the Environment.

Under the new system, recycling will change in one of two ways. One possibility is that the packaging industry group Multi Material British Columbia (MMBC) will collect and recycle paper as well as a variety of plastic, metal, and glass packaging.  That would mean taking recycling out of the hands of local government entirely.

Alternatively, MMBC might pay the city and the RDCK to continue doing it.

Switching the cost of recycling to the producers

Welcome to the world of extended producer responsibility (EPR), in which producers look after their own waste, rather than expecting municipal governments to do it for them. The B.C. government calls its program industry-led product stewardship.

Bottles, batteries, and paint

Returnable bottles are BC’s oldest examples of EPR. Soft drink and beer producers in B.C. have been handling recycling of those since the 1970s. In the 1990s, other waste products were added. For example, car batteries, electronics, paint, oil, tires, and pharmaceuticals are all recycled by industry groups, as required under the  B.C. Recycling Regulation.

Next step: paper and packaging

Currently the city collects paper and packaging from the curbs of Nelson and takes it to the transfer station, and the RDCK takes over from there. So the decision described above has to be made by both bodies jointly.

If it is decided that MMBC will take over recycling, it is unknown at this point what the system will look like.

If the city and the RDCK decide to continue doing the work themselves but paid on contract by MMBC, they have to agree to the contract amount being offered by MMBC. That appears to be a stumbling block at this point.  However, when contacted by The Nelson Daily last week, the players would only hint at that, with few specifics.

“What we are being offered is not what we were originally promised,” said Raymond Gaudart, the acting resource recovery manager at the RDCK.

“It’s hard to make a decision of you don’t know what the financial goalposts are,” said the city’s chief financial officer Colin McClure.

The recycling may have to be trucked to Castlegar after the moving of the Nelson transfer station in 2014. So one of the questions on the table is whether MMBC will pay the city for the trucking, or whether the city will still end up paying part of that cost, thereby undermining the purpose of the program which is that municipalities would not subsidize recycling.

Pandora’s box

Even without the provincially mandated introduction of EPR, there would already be some complex joint decisions for the RDCK and the city in the near future because of the planned moving of the transfer station to Blewett, and the landfill to Ootichenia near Castlegar, both in 2014.

Add MMBC and recycling changes to the mix and it is, in McClure’s words, “a Pandora’s box with many moving parts.” 


Related stories in The Nelson Daily:

A compost debate and more– a summary of the June 10 council meeting (June 11, 2013)

Garbage in, garbage out: a quick history of Nelson’s waterfront as a waste dump (April 25, 2013)

Composting has low priority in local waste management plans (February, 2013)


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