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City could face penalties if incidences of ‘contaminated’ recycling do not drop

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
August 23rd, 2017

City residents need to tighten their recycling belts and stop putting “contaminated” items in curbside recycling bags if the city wants to avoid a future financial penalty, says the city’s manager of Public Works.

Colin Innes said that, although there has been a reduction in the reported levels of contaminated recycling — items not accepted for recycling — after the initiation of the education program earlier this year, when the grace period ends next year it could face a reduction in payments from the provincial Recycle BC program if the contamination rate is not further reduced.

The accepted average percentage of a non-packaging and printed paper (PPP) threshold under the Recycle BC program is three per cent. Nelson residents have reduced the average percentage non-PPP in the city from 6.9 per cent to 4.2 per cent in the most recent audit by Recycle BC.

“Although it is hoped that this change is an outcome of the education that has been provided, it should be cautioned that success should be measured as a sustained reduction in the contamination levels,” said Innes.

The Recycle BC program — formerly known as Multi-Material B.C. — includes service level failure credits that may be applied to collectors (such as the city) if the average percentage of non-PPP is in excess of three per cent.

While Recycle BC has indicated that they are not currently looking to apply the percentage failure credits to the city, they will continue to monitor the quality of material that is received from the city from its residents and reserves the right to initiate the service level failure process in the future if material improvement is not observed, said Innes in his report to city council.

Non-PPP items include such things as paper towels, bathroom tissue, paper napkins, hardcover and paperback books and waxed corrugated cardboard packaging. During some of the dialog with residents, there were a number of complaints received about the city rejecting these items, Innes said.

“It is felt that some additional education highlighting these items could be beneficial in residents further reducing the average percentage non-PPP number,” he said.

Innes noted that the successful diversion of recyclable products from the waste stream — three per cent and under — would have a three-fold effect: reduce the landfill tipping fees that are paid by the city; provide additional revenues; and will avoid the implementation of service level failure credits.

What a household haul

In addition to the audit of the quality of the recyclable materials, Recycle BC also tabulates the amount of material that is collected to determine the average amount of in-scope PPP collected per household.

In Nelson the in-scope PPP collected from May 19, 2016 to May 18, 2017 was calculated as 67.1 kilograms per household.

Innes felt that, although there is likely a greater amount of PPP that can be redirected from the waste stream, the 2015 B.C. average waste disposal rate was 497 kg/capita while the 2015 RDCK average waste disposal rate was 476 kg/capita.

“It is thought that there may be some local initiatives, such as bringing your own reusable containers in order to purchase bulk items, that may result in lower levels of garbage and recyclables in general,” he said.

Taking it to the streets

The current recycling program in the city benefits the municipal corporation, as opposed to being a taxation burden as it was in the past.

The City of Nelson acts as a collector for the recyclable material and receives funding for the service, while the cost of the collection and processing is borne by industry.

However, as a collector the city is required to abide by regulations established by Recycle BC and must collect only the material that is accepted under the program, and in the manner as specified by Recycle BC.

“The impact of this is the shifting of close to $500,000 in collection and processing cost from the city taxpayer to the producers,” said Innes.

In fact, the city receives approximately $133,000 annually to collect curbside PPP under contract with Recycle BC. On the other end of the spectrum, the city pays tipping fees to the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) for garbage that it collects and delivers to the Grohman Narrows transfer station.

Taxation is still factored into the waste and recycling picture as city residents and businesses pay the RDCK $870,560 per year for it to manage waste and recycling in areas not covered under the Recycle BC program.

Nelson residents, as part of the RDCK are part of both programs: the Recycle BC for curbside collection; and the RDCK depot program.

The city is working with a non-profit, the regional district and Recycle BC to construct a Recycle BC depot within city boundaries to create a one-stop shop for all products that are not currently collected at the curbside, Innes pointed out.

In addition, Recycle BC (https://recyclebc.ca/app/) has an app that can be downloaded from its website that outlines the materials that can be collected at curbside, since there currently isn’t a Recycle BC depot in Nelson.

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