North Island opts in for recycling

Curbside recycling program to come to North Vancouver Island next spring.

Curbside recycling is coming to North Vancouver Island next spring. How it will be implemented — and how non-compliance will be enforced — is still a work in progress.

Most regions within the Regional District of Mount Waddington, beginning in May of 2014, will fall under a controversial recycling compliance regime of Multi-Material B.C. (MMBC), which has been tasked by the province with ensuring at least 75 per cent of all recyclable materials are removed from the solid waste stream entering British Columbia landfills.

The District of Port Hardy, the Town of Port McNeill and the RDMW all responded to MMBC by its Sept. 16 deadline, indicating they would sign on to the program, which makes them eligible for funding for recycling through their existing solid-waste contracts with Fox Disposal, Ltd.

But commitment to the MMBC program is just the first step in the process. Before the work is contracted, details will need to be worked out between MMBC and the province’s varied municipalities, ranging from Vancouver and other urban centres to more remote locations like Northern B.C. and, yes, North Vancouver Island.

“We can only theorize how it’s going to look,” said Sue Harvey, Port McNeill’s town administrator. “From now until May we’ll work out those details, and those will need to be worked out before (MMBC) sends back the contract.”

MMBC is a coalition of commercial producers and wholesalers, whose businesses will charge a fee on packaging materials purchased by retail customers and then use that money to pay for the mandated recycling program.

The program has drawn mixed responses across the province, with critical regional districts and municipal governments saying it supersedes already effective programs in those areas, that it fails to provide adequate compensation to local contractors to provide the recycling service, or that its punitive fees for contaminated recyclables will cost governments — meaning residents — in the long run.

For the RDMW, which already collects and ships recyclable material from Seven Mile Landfill, the program makes sense, said Patrick Donaghy, RDMW operations manager.

“It costs about $50 a ton to transport our recyclables down-Island,” said Donaghy, who noted the RD can gain a measure of savings by utilizing trucks that arrive on the North Island full but are otherwise scheduled to return empty. “But in some cases we’re not even getting paid $50 a ton for the material, so our transportation costs are sometimes more than we’re getting paid.

“All I know is that, with MMBC we’re not paying to get the material off-Island.”

Based on initial response to MMBC, North Islanders will have different recycling options, based on their location. The District of Port Hardy and the Town of Port McNeill would both have curbside pickup of recyclables, while other, more remote, North Island communities — including Woss, Sointula and Winter Harbour will use depots to dropping off recyclables, which will be expanded to include glass, styrofoam and plastic film.

“The Regional District’s role right now is to our unincorporated communities,” said Patrick Donaghy, the RDMW operations manager who oversees Seven Mile Landfill. “We’re going to enter into discussions with MMBC on the final contract. We’re hopefully looking at curtsied recycling and multi-family collection in Coal Harbour, and depot collection in the other communities.”

Not everyone, however, would necessarily be covered. The unincorporated areas of Hyde Creek and Nimpkish Heights would have neither curbside pickup nor a local depot site under current waste-disposal contract, and would have to continue to travel either to Port McNeill or Seven Mile Landfill with recyclable materials.

While curbside recycling in Port McNeill and Port Hardy is an extension of current contracts with Fox Disposal, no such contract exists in Hyde Creek and Nimpkish Heights.

“Greg (Fox) could talk to his subscribers in those areas,” said Donaghy. “Potentially, he could say, ‘This is a model I could do in Hyde Creek.’ He could take that proposal to MMBC, but it would be as a private contractor.”

Regardless of how it works in each community, recyclables will have to be removed from the solid waste stream sooner than later. With penalties accruing to residents who exceed the 25 per cent allowable amount of recyclable material in their garbage, the time may come when the garbage truck bypasses offending cans without picking them up.

“The RD is realistic about this,” Donaghy said. “We’re not going to be draconian, but over time we’re going to have to step up enforcement of how much material is in the waste stream.

“This is a huge undertaking; we realize it’s not going to happen overnight.”