Representatives from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) were in area communities over the last two weeks, explaining the TNRD recycling program and recent changes to it.
Andrew Roebbelen, the TNRD’s waste reduction coordinator, and Jamie Vieira—manager of environmental health fir the TNRD—were at the Ashcroft Library on Dec. 4, and 21 people were there to learn more about recycling and upcoming changes to the program. Roebbelen and Vieira discussed the recycling options in the community, gave an overview of recent changes, explained the six categories of recycled materials now accepted, gave some recycling tips, and answered questions.
Roebbelen said that the TNRD realizes that the current transfer station being used for recycling by Ashcroft and Cache Creek is an older one and that the site is not ideal. “We have a new Eco-depot in the works, which will have a scale,” said Roebbelen. “We’re still looking for a location, which we hope will be in the middle [along Highway 97C or Highway 1] between Ashcroft and Cache Creek.”
The new Eco-depot, he added, will be easily accessible and right off the highway. The TNRD wants to have it open by the fall of 2019. “We haven’t purchased a property yet, but we have a few irons in the fire. When the new Eco-depot opens, the current transfer station site will close.”
He explained that recent changes to the TNRD recycling program were made in large part because early in 2018 China, which accepted much of North America’s recycling, began clamping down on contaminated recycling. “Unmanned bins get non-recyclable items dumped in them.”
Vieira said that within the TNRD, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Chase, and Merritt had recycling stations that could not conform to the new standards. “There was no way to make them conform. In 2018, global recycling changed because China changed its policies. They finally put their foot down. What we thought was good recycling was ending up as garbage.
“In February 2018 the firm that took our mixed recycling said ‘No more.’ We had to stockpile all our recycling. We had nowhere to send it.” He added that he wished that the new Eco-depot could have been built before the old recycling depots had to close.
“I know the frustration, and I empathize. If we’d had a crystal ball, we would have had the new Eco-depot built before the old [recycling stations] closed. Right now we have a location, but it’s not a good one, so we’re not building up there.”
The TNRD also joined Recycle BC, a not-for-profit organization responsible for recycling residential packaging and paper, but not for recycling products. “Recycle BC ensures that materials are collected and sorted, then responsibly recycled,” explained Roebbelen. “It’s funded by the businesses that supply the packaging and paper, not by taxpayers.”
He also explained the difference between products and packaging, saying that even if a plastic toy was stamped as being recyclable, it cannot be accepted by Recycle BC; only the box in which it came (the packaging) could be. Roebbelen then gave an overview of the six categories of recyclable materials that can be accepted: paper; containers; plastic bags/overwrap; foam containers (white and coloured); and glass.
The key, he stressed, was to make sure that the materials were clean. Napkins and tissues are not recyclable, even though they are made of paper: partly because they are a product, and partly because they aren’t clean. Pizza boxes are made of cardboard, which is recyclable, but if the box is stained with oil, cheese, or sauce, it is contaminated, as those materials cannot be separated from the cardboard (and a contaminated item will contaminate other items it’s mixed with). A solution, he said, can be to recycle the lid of the pizza box, if it’s clean, and throw the rest away.
Roebbelen said that while items should be clean, residents need to use their judgment. “Give things a rinse. If you can’t get it clean, then it’s better to throw it in the garbage.” He added that people often ask about using water—a precious natural resource—to clean things for recycling. “Using a little bit of water to clean something [so it can be recycled] is better than it going into a landfill forever.”
He added that people can leave labels and lids on items that are to be recycled.
Books cannot currently be recycled, although items such as magazines and phone books can. “Recycle BC won’t take books, as they’re a product that isn’t being paid for [to Recycle BC]. But the TNRD is looking at options for recycling books,” said Roebbelen.
He admitted that plastic bags and overwrap were his least favourite category to explain. Basically, if the bag or overwrap has a “stretch” to it when pulled, no matter how difficult—bread bags, grocery bags, bags that salt for snow, or that wood pellets, comes in—it can be recycled.
He added, however, that in 2019 a new category that would cover items such as potato chip bags, Ziploc bags, granola and chocolate bar wrappers, mesh bags such as those for onions, and more will be introduced.
Tin foil is accepted if clean; even though it is a product, it is also used in containers for the take-out food industry (packaging). Foam containers need to be separated according to colour, since white foam can be recycled into more items. As for foam packaging, such as “packing peanuts” and the packaging that comes around electronics like TVs or computers, Roebbelen explained that if it breaks when twisted, it’s fine; if it is squishy or can be twisted without breaking, it isn’t.
Glass jars are accepted (if they’re clean), but light bulbs are not, although Roebbelen added that the TNRD will be rolling out a light bulb recycling program.
He said that people shouldn’’t think they need six separate recycling bins at home. “Most people mostly have paper and containers. Do what works for you.” He said that he knew of one person who puts all their recycling in one bin, then spends 20 minutes at the recycling depot sorting it out and chatting with the attendant, while another person he knows of has six different bins at home, to teach their children about recycling.
“We have six categories and one goal: less waste.”
Pamphlets about the TNRD recycling program are available at the Ashcroft Bakery, the Ashcroft and Cache Creek Libraries, and at the transfer station; you can also find out more online at https://www.tnrd.ca/recycleapp.