The Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) and the Town of Smithers hosted a virtual roundtable called “Connect 4 Cardboard” to discuss the issues surrounding ICI (Industrial Commercial Institutional) carboard recycling in the regional district.
The virtual session had around 40 participants, from members of the RDBN board, representatives for the Town of Smithers, members of Chamber of Commerce Network and several other interested stakeholders from the Lakes District and surrounding area.
The regional district has been working around finding a solution for the cardboard issue for a while now. In June, the regional district carried a motion to develop a pilot project with the goal of recycling 50 per cent of residential and ICI cardboard in three years. However, a more permanent, long-term solution is being sought.
Alex Erikson, the director of environmental services highlight the two the main issues for recycling cardboard, the high cost of transportation and the dangers involved in transporting large volumes of cardboard over longer distances. Possible solutions were also discussed during the roundtable, from finding a facility that would consolidate cardboard for transportation into bale loads, to helping boost the local economy with private businesses using the cardboard to possibly make pellets out of it. Another possible solution that was discussed was of “circular economy” in which recycled cardboard would be used for things like livestock bedding.
Mark Fisher, the area A director for the RDBN elaborated on this and said, “Circular economy is not just about recycling, but about repackaging things effectively.”
Several stakeholders, and businesses chimed in during the Q&A towards the end, with what they were facing or the solutions they were able to offer. The Smithers Public Library presented their problem as not having a solution for recycling books that aren’t sold during the book sales. The library representative mentioned that there are almost 50 boxes full of books that need to be recycled each year and since the Tatlow Rd. facility that used to accept these books for recycling has now stopped it, the books are now going to the dump.
However, in response to the library’s problem, Erikson informed the representatives that no such recycle program was currently available for books.
A few other representatives like Casda Thomas, the acting mayor for the Town of Smithers, Shane Mooth, the manager for Canadian Tire, Mike Bundoch, the manager for Bulkley Valley Wholesale, Chuck Braun of Loop industries and Luis Gonzales, the Northern BC district manager for Waste Management also weighed in on the problem and while taxing the community saw opposition, everyone unanimously agreed that a need for a sustainable solution was essential.
One of the participants also said that she would be willing to pay if she knew that the cardboard would definitely get recycled and not just thrown away in the dump. At which point Fisher noted that the regional district had seen a lot of businesses in support for this.
Fisher also urged everyone to write to the province to include commercial recycling with the residential recycling program.
“Put pressure on the province; we had received a verbal commitment that they would include it with residential recycling but it is not fast enough,” he said. Fisher would now be taking the request from the roundtable to the RDBN to create a template for such a letter that people can submit to the province.
Currently, all the cardboard in the region is mostly going into the Knockholt landfill after the May 2019 fire that destroyed the receiving facility in Smithers. RDBN then issued a ban on cardboard at the landfill as it started threatening the stability but later announced in a press release that they would be suspending the cardboard ban at the Knockholt landfill and would revisit the decision on a month-by-month basis until Nov. 1.