Despite some growing pains, the blue box system has hauled off a successful service – diverting more than 70 per cent of recyclables from the landfill in the North Okanagan.
Multi-Material BC is an $80 million/year program and the first in Canada where industry assumes full financial and managerial responsibility for the residential recycling system.
With the exception of Spallumcheen, homeowners and regional districts/municipalities in the North Okanagan no longer pay for recycling service.
A 77 per cent recovery rate was achieved in 2015, collecting 186,509 tonnes of recyclables from households and depots, while this year is showing closer to 70 per cent.
“We’re actually slightly higher than that in the North Okanagan,” said Allen Langdon, MMBC managing director, in a presentation to Coldstream council Monday.
While papers and plastics are already sorted between the two blue bins, additional sorting is needed. That’s where the machines have trouble with certain plastics such as shopping bags and overwrap.
“It gets contaminated,” said Langdon. “And we’ll have plants that have to shut down every six hours just to remove plastic.”
Due to a lack of market for some of these certain thinner plastics, MMBC does not accept them curbside, but does at local depots.
Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick points out that this change in recycling may be forcing more material into the landfills.
“What I hear from people is they are actually putting it in the garbage now instead of recycling it,” said Garlick, also noting some concerns about mess left on the curbs and shredded paper confusion (it is in fact accepted in either plastic or paper bags).
While residents are getting the message about what they can and can’t put in the bins, education (such as reminder stickers left on bins) is constantly taking place to ensure the program can be as successful as possible.
“We find all sorts of stuff in the blue box: garden hoses, clothing, things that really don’t belong there,” said Langdon.
Still, the program has been able to maintain a seven per cent contamination rate.
“In the North Okanagan the rate is much lower, it’s more around the three per cent mark.”
Meanwhile one local politician still isn’t a fan of the new program.
“In the past we had a much simpler recycling system,” said Coun. Gyula Kiss. “Wouldn’t it be much simpler to control the production of this stuff…So we would not have to do the sorting for them.”
Langdon points out that a lot of the items purchased come from overseas, therefore the government cannot control it.
“At this point the best strategy is to make our recycling system as efficient as possible.”