Approximately 450 people – including Burns Lake residents – recently signed a petition asking the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) to lift a ban on metal and wood salvaging on transfer stations.
Telkwa resident Brad Junkin and other advocates gathered all 450 signatures over a six-day period. The petition was then submitted to the RDBN board.
Junkin explained that residents have been salvaging wood and metal from transfer stations for a number of years in the region – including artisans and people who use these materials to refurbish items or for firewood.
“For the 15 years that I’ve been in the region, it’s been a practice,” he said. “So many people believe this is a social, economic and cultural thing in the area.”
“The stuff that people create is just unbelievable,” he continued. “From gardens to tree houses for their grandkids, flower beds and metal sculptures.”
Being an artisan himself, Junkin builds concrete life-size animals using internal structures made of recycled materials from the transfer stations.
“I don’t think there are 10 per cent of the greenhouses or flower beds [in the region] that haven’t used or haven’t been built by using recycled materials from a salvage yard,” he added.
Although metal and wood salvaging on RDBN transfer stations hasn’t been allowed for a number of years, Junkin said it was only recently that the ban started being enforced.
“All of a sudden the RDBN comes up and decides to enforce something that people didn’t even know about,” he said. “It was quite a shock to a lot of people.”
“The culture of recycling for years has been pushed on,” he continued. “And all of a sudden they [RDBN] want to end it and all these materials are destroyed; wood piles are just shipped away to be buried somewhere at a cost to residents.”
The RDBN says the ban has been in place due to liability issues. However, Junkin said people signing the petition told him repeatedly that they do not believe liability is a viable reason, and alternative solutions and strategies are available through public consultation.
Since Junkin’s petition, the RDBN has decided to conduct a safety review before allowing wood and metal salvaging on transfer stations. However, in order to meet concerns about safety and liability issues, it could be a few months before the ban is lifted.
Telkwa mayor Darcy Repen said last week during a board meeting that this isn’t good enough.
“Our challenge is that when we go to the transfer station we see a huge pile of wood, and most of it useful, so the question is why are we not able to address this right now?” he asked.
“There’s a functional and logical way to address that wood pile or metal pile so that it is safely accessible to residents, and that shouldn’t have to go through a whole waste management plan review,” he continued. “I just don’t feel that waiting for that plan review is necessary on this particular issue.”
Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said metal and wood salvaging should be added as a priority topic on upcoming budget discussions.
The RDBN was asked for a comment, but did not respond by press time.
– With files from Catherine Matheson