Throughout January 2019, all Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) transfer stations and Eco-Depots will be introducing a new recycling category under the Recycle BC program. The TNRD also has good news for small businesses that are trying to do the right thing and recycle material, but have been told they cannot take their material to the recycling depot (Recycle BC only accepts residential material, apart from cardboard).
“Other Flexible Plastic Packaging” (OFPP) will be in addition to the six current categories of recyclable material, and includes all soft plastic packaging not currently accepted in the “Plastic Bags and Overwrap” category. Once all TNRD facilities have the infrastructure in place for collection of the new category, information about it will be available to the public in the form of cards and a chart explaining what is—and is not—accepted in the new recycling stream.
“The new stream was rolled out on Jan. 1 in the four largest TNRD Eco-Depots,” says Andrew Roebbelen, the TNRD’s waste reduction coordinator, noting that the new stream is not officially being accepted at the recycling depot at the Cache Creek landfill site yet, since the new infrastructure has yet to arrive. “Unofficially, though, it will be accepted and put aside while we wait for the new facilities, which will probably come in early February.”
In June 2018 Recycle BC began a pilot project to collect material in a new category called Other Flexible Plastic Packaging. The new category basically includes all of the plastic packaging that is not accepted in the Plastic Bags and Overwrap category. “It’s a lot of the plastic packaging you see in grocery stores that’s not accepted now,” explains Roebbelen.
OFPP is one of the fastest-growing packaging types on the market, and the largest category of packaging that previously was not collected by Recycle BC. Packaging in the OFPP category is often referred to as “multi-laminated plastic packaging”; essentially all types of film and flexible plastics which until now were not accepted in any of the Recycle BC categories.
“Recycle BC was instructed to find ways to recycle packaging wherever possible, and this was the next logical step,” explains Roebbelen. “They’re trying to recover as much as possible.” He adds that many things that used to come in plastic containers—which could be recyced—now come in plastic pouches, which saves on space, money, and shipping costs. “Things like soap refills used to come in plastic containers, and now they come in pouches.”
The pilot project was put in place with a number of local governments and independent depots. As the 2018 pilot project was successful, beginning in 2019 all Recycle BC depots (including TNRD facilities) will start collecting this additional new category of plastics. The new category only includes materials that were previously sent to landfill. There are no changes to the existing six categories of recyclable materials at TNRD depots.
One way to judge if something belongs in the OFPP category is to ask yourself whether you can poke your thumb through it. If the answer is “no”, but the material stands up by itself or has a zipper lock, is crinkly, or has a foil (silver) lining, then it belongs in the OFPP category and can now be recycled.
Examples of OFPP materials now being accepted are crinkly wrappers, such as those that granola and chocolate bars come in; stand-up and zipper lock bags; deli meat and cheese bags; soap refill pouches; cereal, cookie, and potato chip bags; cheese wrappers; plastic safety seals on bottles and jars; vacuum seal packaging; woven and net plastic bags; and some wrapping and packing materials, such as foil wrapping, plastic air pouches, and bubble wrap.
Items not included in the PFPP category, and which are not recyclable, include plastic tubes, six-pack rings, plastic strapping, plastic-lined paper, and PVC/vinyl.
Roebbelen says that much of the recycled material in the new category is turned into engineered fuel, which replaces coal in some industries. “The recycling has to meet very high standards.”
Regarding small businesses that want to recycle, but were in some cases being turned away from the Cache Creek transfer station recycling facility because Recycle BC only services residential customers, Roebbelen says that the TNRD has spoken with Recycle BC about the situation. “They didn’t want to be competing with private haulers [of recyclable material],” explains Roebbelen, adding that that is not usually a factor in rural areas. He acknowledges that small businesses are trying to do the right thing, and that there’s “No point in saying no. We’ll accept reasonable amounts of recycling from small businesses.”
Roebbelen also says that the TNRD is looking into being able to accept light bulbs, and hopes to be able to offer that service soon. “That would be an additional recycling service, not part of Recycle BC. It’s an industry take-back program.”