One of the sites CSWM is considering closing is beside Courtenay Country Market. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Comox Strathcona Waste Management looks at closing unstaffed depots

Amount of recycling material tainted seen as much bigger problem at these sites

The regional body that oversees waste management for the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts is considering getting rid of four unsupervised recycling depots.

At the latest Comox Strathcona Waste Management board meeting on Nov. 14, directors passed several motions concerning bins, largely because of improperly discarded waste. The initial recommendation was to close all four over the next two years. However, the board is treating the regions separately.

The recycling system through the service areas is broken into several Recycle BC operations that accept a wide range of materials. There are also a half dozen CSWM recycling depots, including the four in question. These sites do not accept glass, plastic bags, outer wrap or foam packaging, according to the CSWM website.

CSWM will take a phased approach for two in Campbell River. The bins at Strathcona Gardens will go next year, with the Sportsplex bins to disappear in 2021. The City of Campbell River, itself, has curbside service, and CSWM staff point out even things like large pieces of cardboard can be cut up and left at the curb rather than dropped off at the bins. Andy Adams, Campbell River’s mayor and one of its CSWM representatives, made the motion for the closures of the two sites in his community.

In the Comox Valley, the two sites in question are by the Canex Store near 19 Wing Comox and the Courtenay Country Market on Highway 19A.

Edwin Grieve, who represents Area C on the CVRD, introduced a motion for the Comox Valley sites, specifically for Country Market’s site to be closed in 2020 and Canex in 2021. He also said the electoral areas need to consider roadside recycling services for rural areas. Last time, electors rejected the idea during a referendum as a “tax grab” by the regional district.

“We have to grow up here,” he said.

For now, however, the board decided to defer the matter of closure for the Comox Valley sites until the next meeting in January to allow staff to prepare a report.

The issue surrounds how much more material becomes tainted at unstaffed sites. Marc Rutten, the Comox Valley Regional District’s general manager of engineering services, estimates it at around 18 per cent versus 3.5 per cent at the staffed facilities. One of the worst substances is yard waste that is deposited in the recycling stream rather than composted.

To mitigate this mess – in other words, clean up sites – staff estimates it would cost at least $240,000, or even as much as $497,000 if they were to be fully staffed. In contrast, closing the sites would save an estimated $215,000, they say.

“The status quo is really not something that is sustainable,” Rutten said of the unstaffed depots. “They’re not reflective of our standards and values.”

Not everyone supported the idea. Brenda Leigh, Area D director for the Strathcona Regional District, predicted closing depots would result in more people throwing out recyclables with garbage or by illegal dumping. She also questioned how much this material would take up in landfill space and she asked for a transition plan.

“I just don’t think we’ve tried hard enough to keep these depots open,” she said.

RELATED STORY: Comox-Strathcona’s illegal dumping program showing progress

RELATED STORY: Plenty more waste in Comox Valley and Campbell River landfills could be diverted – audit

Alex Bissinger, one of the Comox representatives, wondered about the need for more categorization at these bins. The bins are single-stream, meaning people can deposit any of the accepted materials in them.

“The whole single-stream system seems like a free-for-all,” she said.

Martin Davis, the mayor and representative of Tahsis, suggested measures such as video monitoring to identify offenders leaving unaccepted items in the bins as a way to tackle the problem.

Beyond the question of the four sites outside the Recycle BC system, the board passed motions for CSWM to look at converting its depots for Quadra Island and Oyster River into Recycle BC depots after discussions with the electoral area directors. As well, staff will be submitting an application to Recycle BC for a depot at the south end of Campbell River that could serve nearby residents outside city limits.

(This story has been edited to reflect a correction to Marc Rutten’s position.)

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Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services, updates the CSWM board on recycling depots. Photo by Mike Chouinard

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