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Business owners forced to throw recycling into landfill, or face fine

A Nelson business is not happy with the new Recycle BC program at Grohman. — The Nelson Daily photo

Commercial producers of recycling waste are now being asked to put the once recyclable material into the landfill or face a monetary fine if they try to recycle in existing residential bins.

New changes to the way recycling is being handled in the province have resulted in commercial recycling being deemed too expensive to process, with the new Recycle BC program being rolled out not supporting industrial, commercial and institutional material.

In the Regional District of Central Kootenay, changes to the management of the local recycling program — from regional district control to Recycle BC — means business owners and commercial producers are being told to put once accepted recyclables into the landfill.

According to the regional district, global recycling markets have dropped out, meaning there is no value in recyclables — in the past the value of the material often paid for the collection, hauling, processing, and marketing. 

And since producers of commercial recyclables do not contribute financially to the Recycle BC program, industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) material is not accepted and is seen as contamination, said Amy Wilson, resource recovery manager for the RDCK.

“Basically ICI left at a Recycle BC depot is seen as illegal dumping, and may also be in contravention of a number of our “site regulations” in Resource Recovery Bylaw No. 2694,” she said, adding that the move could fall under the fines (up to $10,000) or bans applied through the bylaw. 

“In cases of illegal dumping we pass on the full cost of clean-up, and repeat offenders may be banned from using RDCK waste facilities (including depots).”

Wilson said Recycle BC views ICI recycling as contamination.

“If our bins have over three per cent contamination (ICI or other non-Recycle BC program materials) the RDCK may be fined,” she said.

For Harreson Sinclair at Kootenay Columbia College his 10 large, clear bags of recycling — composed of mainly paper and shredded paper, thin cardboard packaging, plastic bottles, metal containers — all clean and totally recyclable in the old system ended up in the landfill in Ootischenia.

“This was around a month’s worth of recycling for me, and (it) makes me sick to do this as I'm a huge environmental guy that has recycled stuff for years and years,” he said in an email interview with The Nelson Daily.

He said he knows of several other people in Nelson who have had to do the same thing. “Had I known the regulations were going to be brought in so suddenly I would have recycled this a while back,” he said.

“And, from what I understand about the new recycling rules, you can be fined for putting any commercial items, even paperwork, with business stuff into your personal home recycling bins now,” he pointed out.

Despite voicing his concern with the regional district, he discovered his only option is to throw the once recyclable material out.

“I don't have any room to stockpile business recycling for my school. Most of it is printed and shredded office paper and it's all going in the garbage dumpster now. Makes me sick,” he said.

Wilson admitted that “some business owners are expressing this does not meet their needs to site staff, and we encourage them to reach out to the RDCK and their local area directors rather than our depot educators.”

Ideally, the province should create a stewardship program for industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) recyclables or increase Recycle BC’s mandate to include it, she said.

On its end the regional district has been lobbying the province to include ICI in Recycle BC or another stewardship program.

Source of the recycle woes

Recycle BC covers all the costs of recycling of materials, with the exception of collection (funded by RDCK). 

Recycle BC’s program is funded by producers of residential packaging and printed paper; producers of commercial materials do not fund the Recycle BC system so, although very similar materials, it is viewed as contamination. 

“The estimated costs of a separate commercial recycling program was very expensive, so the RDCK board of directors elected to offer commercial cardboard collection at high volume sites only,” said Wilson.

Business owners can travel to a depot that accepts ICI cardboard, or they can hire a private recycling service (possibly partner with nearby business), to recycle some material. 

— Source: RDCK