Regional District of North Okanagan looks at single-use plastic ban

Service changes at RDNO recycling drop centres discussed

In an effort to preserve the natural beauty of the area, the Regional District of North Okanagan is looking into further green recycling and waste management initiatives.

At the regular public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 9, three recommendations regarding service changes to recycling drop centres were before the board of directors.

“It’s very obvious. You turn on the media or social media, and you hear about global warming,” said Kevin Acton, RDNO chair. “We’re trying to be really responsible with what we’re doing with waste.”

As recommended to the board, the staff is developing a bylaw banning single-use plastics in the Regional District of North Okanagan. A review of similar policies in Victoria and Salmon Arm is currently underway and the bylaw will be before the board sometime at the end of February, Acton estimates.

“We’re looking at people that have already done it and are going from there,” Acton said of the proposed bylaw. “That would be reducing the amount of plastic going into the system, so there would be less to worry about.”

Acton said potential banned plastic items would include straws, bags and single-use cups. Other recyclable or reusable options are currently available on the market, he added.

During discussions of banning single-use plastics in Salmon Arm, Mayor Alan Harrison said it is estimated that, per capita, 200 plastic shopping bags are used every year. Many of those plastic bags end up in the landfill, he said.

Related: Salmon Arm plans to ban single-use plastic bags

Montreal was the first Canadian city to implement a ban on single-use plastics. That bylaw went into effect in January 2018. Victoria followed suit with a similar bylaw in July 2018. Saanich and Esquimalt are also looking into potential bans.

After the bylaw is drafted, it will be back before the RDNO for discussion. Should the bylaw receive final reading, Acton estimated a six-month window to put the bylaw into effect.

“If it’s supported, I could see it come into effect next year or after a year-and-a-half,” Acton said.

Beyond the potential removal of single-use plastics, Acton said the RDNO is considering alternative waste to energy opportunities to improve solid waste management.

Related: RDNO seeks public input on solid waste plan

Related: Greater Vernon landfill construction

One potential option is allowing facilities or landfills to utilize greenhouse gases emitted from green-waste as a source of energy. However, that option isn’t without its complications.

“We don’t have enough green-waste in this area,” Acton said. “Believe it or not, we don’t have enough garbage.”

The board also discussed the practice of burning waste at a high enough heat that it mitigates air pollution but still produces energy. Potential waste-to-energy options will also be discussed further at a future committee of the whole meeting.

The final recycling drop centres service change recommendation before the board seeks to hire a new contractor for the collection of recycled materials. Acton said roughly four companies have shown interest in the contract.

“What we’ve essentially done is put collection requirements (into the contract.) They’re going to be responsible for the amount of recyclables that goes into the landfill,” Acton said.

Recycle BC, a non-profit organization responsible for residential packaging and paper recycling throughout the province, has an estimated recovery rate of 75 per cent. Acton said that the RDNO contract seeks a similar outcome.

A potential factor impeding the recovery rate is the sorting of recyclable goods at home.

“If people aren’t willing to take plastics and separate them from cardboard, it becomes quite expensive when you have to do it manually,” Acton said, noting that the directors will look to mitigate costs while increasing green initiatives.

“We always need to balance the economy with the environment, but we need to make sure we’re paying our share.”

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