China’s decision to restrict the amount of recyclable materials accepted from North America may not have any immediate impact on the Shuswap, though there may be changes coming down the pipe for local recycling programs.
As of Jan. 1, China put into effect new stringent purity standards for recycled materials – plastics and paper – imported from other countries, including Canada. As a result, some Canadian provinces and municipalities are struggling to find new markets for materials that are piling up.
Ben Van Nostrand, environmental health services team leader for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, says things remain status quo in the Shuswap as far as recycling goes. Both the CSRD and the City of Salmon Arm have agreements with Recycle BC (formerly Multi-Materials BC), which is responsible for materials accepted in both the curbside and depot programs.
Van Nostrand says plastics are currently processed in the Lower Mainland by a company called Merlin Plastics.
“They’re developing different markets and different ways to recycle plastics locally,” said Van Nostrand. “So that’s sort of a good news part of their program. We’re not as reliant on those export markets as some of those other programs and provinces are.”
Looking ahead, however, Van Nostrand suggests Recycle BC may start looking how it can improve the quality of materials they’re handling. This, he says, could require the CSRD to take greater scrutiny to recyclables accepted at depots and through the curbside program.
“I think operationally it’s going to impact us, but it’s not like we don’t have an option for those materials. They’re still flowing through the system,” he said.
Van Nostrand says there’s also talk at Recycle BC about moving away from the blue recycle bags – such as those currently used in Salmon Arm’s curbside recycling program – in favour of a box system.
“When you rip open the bags to access the material, it turns around and creates a bit of a contamination problem,” Van Nostrand explained. “So in municipalities where they’re introducing new programs, they’re going to a two-stream, blue box program, so no more plastic bags. You have to put your stuff out in a blue box, one box for fibre and one box for containers.
“They haven’t imposed that yet in Salmon Arm. I know they’ve hinted at it but there’s no solid plans to actually do something like that. That’s sort of speculative, but time will tell.”
Van Nostrand said most agreements with Recycle BC are until 2019, and that Recycle BC is currently consulting on their plans and will be making recommendations to the Ministry of Environment later this year.
“That could change things in the latter part of 2018/2019,” said Van Nostrand.