It may be time to find another use for that pickle jar around the home. Next year West Shore residents, as well as the rest of the Capital Region, may no longer be able to put glass out on the curbside to be recycled.
“We’ve invested a lot of time encouraging people to put it in the recycling … This seems like a step backwards,” said former Colwood councillor Judith Cullington. “I worry that too much glass will end up in the garbage.”
The Capital Regional District, faced with concerns over glass contaminating other recyclables, is looking at three options involving curbside glass collection.
One of the options CRD staff have recommended to the environmental services committee would start in 2017 and see glass no longer accepted in the blue bins. Residents would have to take both refundable and non-refundable glass to facilities such as a bottle depot.
Glass containers have been collected as part of the CRD’s residential curbside blue box program since it began in 1988.
“The CRD made it easy when we got the blue bin,” Cullington said.
“It’s all been about how do we make it easier and I think people have responded.” She pointed down her own street in Colwood, which was neatly lined with overflowing blue bins waiting to have their contents picked up. “Those are the kinds of results we want to see.”
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said, “We’re trying to get this out of the landfill … There’s quite a lot of glass that gets mixed in.” Hamilton, a director on the CRD’s environmental services committee, added, “it’s all about getting everybody on the same page.”
The CRD entered into agreements last year with Multi-Material B.C. and Emterra Environmental to collect residential packaging and printed paper recycling last year after changes were implemented to B.C. recycling regulations. Those agreements, which are effective through April 2019, see MMBC pay roughly $5 million annually to the CRD to provide this service on its behalf. The CRD sub-contracts collection to Emterra. MMBC owns all materials picked up and has another contractor that processes them.
Glass containers collected curbside are supposed to be separated by residents to avoid glass particles contaminating other recyclables, and to ensure the quality of collected recyclables. If contamination is not consistently below three per cent (of the weight), then the CRD faces fines of up to $120,000 a year. Information provided to CRD staff by MMBC audits states that contamination is trending downwards, but is still estimated to be running at between eight to 10 per cent.
“It’s not a small fine … We don’t want to go there,” Hamilton said. She noted the CRD has not been fined yet, but is proactively looking at ways to keep that from happening. “Everyone would like the convenience of a one-dump site, but it’s not possible any more.”
Some stores in the region already have their own no-charge glass return programs, she added. “Before we make any hard decisions we’re trying to figure out where we can direct people.”
Hamilton pointed to older regulations that require some stores to accept packaging materials and already have programs in place to collect items such as soft plastics and cardboard. “This is just another aspect of it,” she said.
“Would I make a special trip there just to drop off a pickle jar? Probably not.”
But if her grocery store provided a place to drop off glass – some already do have programs in place – it would be quite easy, she said.
The three options recommended by CRD staff included continuing roadside collection and re-evaluating glass collection when the current agreements expire in 2019.
Option two was to work with Emterra to negotiate a change to the existing curbside program to eliminate glass collection. This would include compensation of up to $150,000 per year to offset Emterra’s glass collection capital investment.
The third option was to terminate Emterra’s contract, re-tender the contract without curbside glass collection and implement an awareness campaign to discourage residents from placing glass in their bins.
“There would be a period of education … It’s not going to be an immediate cease and desist,” Hamilton said. If glass pickup were to stop, she added, it probably wouldn’t happen until early 2017.
If it is going to cost twice as much to stop glass pick up compared to the fine, that would also be considered, she said. “We’re trying to find the best way to balance it out.”
However, Cullington pointed to the environmental costs of having more people driving to drop off their glass. “We have no way of capturing those costs,” she said, adding the environmental impact of the recycling trucks can be measured.
She pointed out that some residents don’t have cars or don’t drive.
“What are you going to do, carry your bottles on the bus with you?” Cullington asked. “I really want to see a solution that will keep curbside pickup.”
The CRD board will make the final decision on the matter, which has yet to be scheduled for consideration.