Squamish residents are being asked to refrain from putting “soft” plastics into their curbside recycling totes but instead, collect them separately and bring them to a designated depot.
The request from Carney’s Waste Systems is part of a phase-in period for a province-wide recycling standardization initiative that comes into effect in many B.C. communities this spring, Carney’s controller Pat Taylor told The Chief.
In early 2013, China banned all but the cleanest bales of recycled plastic from the country, necessitating changes to the way those elsewhere handle those materials. As a result, Carney’s aims to collect plastic bags and other soft plastics such as bubble wrap, food packaging and freezer bags separately to ensure that the bales are as clean as possible, Taylor said.
“One issue is contamination [of non-recyclable materials] and the second is that [soft plastic] is a low-priced commodity,” she said. “There is value in it if is it baled… if we can get it baled here, then we can sell it to someone who will recycle it.”
For the time being, though, the changes are voluntarily. That’s largely because the authority to levy fines or hand out warning notices would require the District of Squamish (DOS) to update its Solid Waste Bylaw, Taylor said.
In May, a new entity called Multi Material B.C. (MMBC) is launching a province-wide effort to help standardize recycling practices and ensure that there’s a market for recycable materials. Many communities across the province have signed on, at least partly MMBC plans to pay local governments’ share of recycling costs, Taylor said.
The DOS, though, hasn’t yet signed on partly because of an MMBC rule stipulating that municipal governments will be fine if non-recyclables — glass or food waste, for example — make up more than three per cent of all material going into the recycling stream, said Rod MacLeod, district director of engineering.
“We’ve been reviewing this for over a year. In November, we felt there were more questions still to be answered before we could sign up for this program,” MacLeod said.
“There are penalties if you don’t meet the three per cent contamination rate, and if we didn’t, and it was up to us to cover that cost. We’re not alone in this — other municipalities have raised the same questions,” he said.
That was just one of the factors that prompted DOS staff to feel uncomfortable making a recommendation to council to join MMBC, MacLeod said. The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) has struck a committee to work through some of the issues on its members’ behalf.
“We have 2014 to get some of those questions answered, see how other communities do with this and then consider signing up in early 2015,” he said.
Meanwhile, Carney’s is urging citizens to collect their soft plastic “film” and instead of putting it in the curbside totes, bring it to the Carney’s Recycle Centre on Queens Way, to the Squamish Landfill Recycling Depot or to a bin outside London Drugs.
“The chances of that plastic bag actually being recycled are about 200 per cent higher if you bring it to us and don’t put it in the tote,” Taylor said.
For more information, visit www.carneywaste.com or phone (604) 892-5604.