Commercial, industrial recycling at a standstill in Burns Lake

Recycling in Burns Lake has been undergoing so many changes over the past two years and yet, the village is yet to see the Recycle BC program back at the depot or a recycle program specifically for dumping commercial and institutional mixed-paper waste and cardboard waste.

Last year, the Burns Lake Recycle Depot ended its contract with Recycle BC while it was under depot manager Kai Joung. Recycle BC then renewed its contract with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) who in turn started a recycle program at its transfer station. Within six months of all these changes, the previous owner of the local depot bought it back and put in a request for a contract with Recycle BC. The owner, Chris Beach, has however still not heard back from the non-profit headquartered in Vancouver.

“Since we lost the program, we have requested that we get it back and I still haven’t heard anything,” said Beach. Beach insisted that he would like to run the program in his depot even though he might lose a bit of money or just break even because it was convenient for the locals and it made his depot a full-service depot.

For now, his depot accepts recycles for beverage containers, electronics, small appliances, power tools, light bulbs and light fixtures, alarms and smoke detectors, paints, cellphones and batteries. “The only thing that we don’t do right now is Recycle BC—that’s the only major program that we don’t do,” said Beach.

However, at the beginning of the year, the depot also lost the RDBN’s waste management bin for industrial, commercial and institutional mixed paper, that used to be placed outside the depot. Janette Derksen, the RDBN’s deputy director of environmental services said that the reason behind this move was mainly because it was getting costly to keep it there for a commodity-based material. “It cost us to actually have it recycled, so it wasn’t very cost effective to have it there,” she added.

No alternative facility for disposing off these materials is available at the RDBN’s transfer station. Earlier this week, when a few residents went to discard their magazines and tourist books, the people at the RDBN’s transfer station sent them back saying they don’t accept these materials. The residents then had to throw away these recyclable materials in trash.

“My real issue is there is no place in town for corporations—like schools and businesses to recycle their paper products. I worry that complacency might start to set in,” said David Hutton, a teacher at the William Konkin Elementary school. Hutton, being an educator, has been trying to instill the good habits of recycling among his students and feels all the efforts will be for naught if Burns Lake doesn’t get back the recycling for commercial paper waste soon. “All the work that has gone into having students and staff to buy into this program—now that paper recycling is not available—that instinct is going to shift back to just throwing it all in the garbage.”

Derksen informed that what material gets accepted at the station depends on where the material comes from mainly because of the restrictions on what can be accepted as per the Recycle BC program. Bound books, magazines, brochures, large amounts of books, or pamphlets—anything coming from industries or organizations cannot be accepted at the transfer station. “If you as a homeowner, has a small book that is maybe not bound, or a magazine, you can throw it in with your residential recycling and it will be recycled through the recycle BC program. But if Chamber of Commerce for example, has a box of the same brochure, or books, we cannot recycle it up there because they are a business,” she explained.

Mark Fisher, the Area A Director of the RDBN pointed out that recycling is a much more complicated topic than it looks. He noted that there are restrictions on what the transfer station can and cannot accept, and it is all part of a big picture. He talked about how China stopped accepting recycling from other countries and that has resulted in countries and provinces rethinking their recycling strategies. “That’s why small jurisdictions, like the regional district, don’t accept commercial recycling because there is no way to deal with it,” he added. He also said that the regional districts have been trying to pressure the province into including commercial waste management just like residential waste management and said that another reason that the transfer station doesn’t accept commercial waste is because even though the residential program is going great, the district being small, doesn’t have the ability to get rid of even the residential material without the provincial program in place. So not having a provincial program for commercial waste management is a big reason why they don’t accept certain materials.

“The regional district really, strongly feels for the businesses here locally because here, in Burns Lake, there isn’t a proper way to recycle their material cost effectively,” said Derksen, adding that RDBN is currently looking for solutions that they can do cost effectively, especially with cardboard from industries and organizations. Fisher also suggested that they were looking at some solutions to be able to manage cardboard waste and some local companies have shown interest in coming up with a solution together for commercial and industrial cardboard waste.

“All regional districts in the province have been lobbying the province, it hasn’t been just the Bulkley-Nechako politicians, it’s a BC problem,” informed Derksen.

Hutton believes it is about more than just pointing fingers. He believes that it is simply about British Columbians being leaders in sustainability, waste reduction, green revolution, seeing as the province is at the forefront of all such measures. “But how can we be leaders when, in our own town we don’t even have anywhere to recycle our paper products. It seems crazy to me.”

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