Major changes are coming to the recycling program carried out by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, including the closure of the municipal recycling depots in Ashcroft and Cache Creek.
They follow recent changes enacted by the Chinese government, which has traditionally received two-thirds of North American recyclables.
China is now banning all but the cleanest, most tidily separated and organized bales of recyclable material, and is completely banning some types. Processing fees for recyclables have nearly tripled in the past eight months, and the TNRD’s processor has been forced to stop accepting mixed recyclables altogether.
The TNRD—which has recently been accepted into the Recycle BC program—must now convert from its current single-stream (mixed) recycling program to a multi-stream recycling program that requires separation at the drop-off point at all solid waste facilities.
Source-separated recycling is much less contaminated, and therefore more marketable in the constantly-changing recycling market.
As a result of joining Recycle BC, the TNRD will cease supporting the operation of the municipal recycling depots in Ashcroft and Cache Creek as of August 31, 2018. A Recycle BC depot operated by the TNRD will be put in place at the Cache Creek Transfer Station to serve residents of the area.
“The current recycling system—one big giant bin—is not sustainable,” says Jamie Vieira, the TNRD’s manager of environmental services. “The recycling currently being collected from Ashcroft is being stockpiled in a warehouse in Pritchard that is almost filled to the ceiling.
“No committed processor is willing to take it. We’re trying to avoid sending it to a landfill, but if the warehouse fills up we’ll have to landfill it.”
One of the reasons that mixed recycling is unsustainable, says Vieira, is because “It’s difficult to get people to follow the rules. We’ve always had high contamination rates, but it’s a real problem now.
“It was accepted until now, but it’s not accepted anymore. [The new model] is more work, but we’ll be doing it right. It’s not recycling if you’re not doing it right.”
The new model will feature clearly labelled bins showing what is—and is not—accepted for recycling, with an attendant on hand to ensure that the rules are being followed. “The biggest source of contamination is from the municipal recycling depots and curbside-collected recycling. This is to be expected, as there is no one monitoring what goes in the bin.
“If it’s not on the sign, it’s not accepted,” adds Vieira, noting that one problem until now has been what he calls “wish-cycling”: “People want something to be, or wish something was, recyclable, like garden hoses or broken plates.” Despite these items not being recyclable, people put them in the bins anyway.
Another issue is people not cleaning their recyclables. “A peanut butter jar is recyclable, but not if it hasn’t been cleaned. And people recycle things in the wrong spot. If a bin is heavily contaminated then Recycle BC won’t take it, and we can be fined if they find contamination.” Vieira notes, however, that once the switch is made to the new system, Recycle BC is responsible for the TNRD’s recycling.
“They come in to the official depot and collect it, and then it’s theirs. It will save the TNRD about $600,000 a year, mostly in hauling fees.”
Vieira adds that the TNRD has budgeted for the building of a full service Eco Depot and Transfer Station between Ashcroft and Cache Creek, probably on Highway 1. “It will be a better site with more services, able to take things like used oil, paint, and electronics. It will cover about 90 per cent of the things you can think of.
“We’re in the planning stage and looking at sites, and hoping for construction and opening in 2019/20. We’ve always had it on the books to do something more permanent.”