Sean Eckford / Staff Writer
July 9, 2017 06:00 AM

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) wants the Ministry of Environment to fully fund depot recycling services on the Sunshine Coast.

The SCRD’s depots are operated under contract and through the Recycle BC (formerly Multi-Material BC) system. The regional district’s agreement with Recycle BC runs until Nov. 30, 2018 with the option for two one-year extensions. The SCRD’s contracts with the depot operators – GRIPS in Pender Harbour, Gibsons Recycling and Salish Soils in Sechelt – are on the same timelines.

Deciding the future of the relationship with Recycle BC was listed as one of the short-term priorities following an SCRD workshop on solid waste in March.

In a report to the June 22 corporate and administrative services committee meeting, SCRD staff noted that tonnage coming into the three depots was up slightly from 2105 to 2106 along with overall revenue from the material, which rose from $97,468.32 to $99,662.13. That money only covers part of the contract fees for the depot operators, leaving the SCRD to pay roughly $407,000 through taxes in 2017.

The report also notes that under the BC Recycling Regulation, stewardship programs are intended to be fully funded by the producers of the materials.

Directors at the committee unanimously backed drafting a letter to the province “calling for the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s depot recycling services to be fully funded as per requirements of the BC Recycling Regulation.”
“In terms of zero waste … one of the definitions of it that I’ve heard is that if you’re able to deal with organics, which we’re moving forward on, and have a fully funded and implemented extended producer responsibility program, then, in theory, you’re there,” said Roberts Creek director Mark Lebbell.

Lebbell also raised a concern about one of the materials that’s supposed to be part of the Recycle BC program – laminated plastics. It’s not collected because there isn’t a recycling option. “It ends up in our landfill, but in the meantime the province is collecting funds from producers.” Lebbell said he’s been told the fees for that product are being used to research ways to recycle, but no one seems to know what’s come out of that research.

Jeremy Valeriote, director for Gibsons and a former manager of waste reduction and recovery for the SCRD, said the province should step up. “They have the power to fully fund our depots. When this was entered into there was supposed to be a three-year review of that funding. The potential is there to make it happen, and we need to apply the pressure. The structure is far from perfect, but there are some tools there.”

Joe Harrison, president of GRIPS, meanwhile, has been applying pressure on the SCRD to do something to ensure the system is financially viable for operators and to follow through on the 2011 Solid Waste Management Plan, which calls for “enhanced drop-off services for recyclables (e.g., resource recovery facilities) in the three distinct service areas.”

In a series of emails copied to Coast Reporter, Harrison said in 2015 and 2016 GRIPS diverted money from its bottle depot to cover losses he estimates at $25,000 to 30,000, and that GRIPS has been “searching without success for another agency or community group to take on this Area A service we have provided for 25 years.”

In an interview last week, Harrison said it’s only because GRIPS is largely a volunteer effort that they’re able to keep going, and changes in how recycling depots are funded will be needed to make it a viable business. “We were actually recycling more before [Recycle BC] than we are now,” said Harrison. “The market was destroyed once [Recycle BC] was set up.”

He said the future of resource recovery on the Coast is largely a political question, and he hopes it becomes an issue during the 2018 municipal campaigns.

Earlier this year, the owners of Gibsons Recycling announced they were restricting the list of materials they would accept to what was included in the SCRD contract (which also involves books, something that isn’t a normal part of the Recycle BC program), citing similar concerns.

“The programs that we’re suspending at this time are disposal, reuse, up-cycling and salvaging. Those fall under the ‘resource recovery’ banner, but there have been no resource recovery contracts by our local governments, even though it’s in the [SCRD’s 2011] solid waste plan,” said Barb Hetherington in a January interview with Coast Reporter.

Some things, like old tires and used motor oil, are covered under so-called EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) programs, but Hetherington said those programs don’t always cover the cost of collecting the material.“We’re looking at these EPR programs that are not full cost recovery. We’re looking at how much it costs us to do things.”

As well as the letter to Ministry of Environment, the SCRD is also taking part in a Recycle BC consultation that includes a conference in November, and a report on “options to continue depot recycling service” is expected in early 2018.

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