Two unstaffed recycling depots in the Comox Valley will go to the scrap heap.
At the Feb. 13 meeting, the board for Comox Strathcona Waste Management, the body that manages solid waste for the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts, voted to get rid of the sites at Courtenay Country Market and Canex.
CSWM had presented the idea to close the unstaffed sites it operates, along with two similar ones in the Campbell River area, at the November board meeting. At that meeting, the board voted to move ahead on the closure of the Campbell River ones but deferred a decision for the two Comox Valley sites to the new year. This was supposed to take place at a meeting in January, but that meeting ended up being cancelled.
As a result of the decision, the Courtenay Country Market site is slated for closure this July with the Canex one to follow in July 2021.
For CSWM, the matter comes down to matters of mess and cost. Each year, too many people are mixing in materials to the single-stream pickup sites, which damages too much material – roughly a fifth. This then ends up having to be taken to landfill instead of being recycled, which CSWM pays for through lost tipping fees. These, staff say, amount to about $45,000.
There was talk about staffing the sites, though staff said this would add to an already costly situation and may not fix the problem. The staff report estimates that if the depots all have improved lighting, paving, fencing, reduced hours to daytime only and full-time staff, it would add annual costs of $825,000. The closure of the Campbell River sites, approved in November, is expected to bring down depot costs from $575,000 to $420,000. The two Comox Valley site closures are expected to cut costs down by another $130,000. In all, the depots cost just over a third of the diversion budget but account for just over one per cent of diverted material.
Several members on the board suggest a need for better public education around the situation, especially as the unstaffed sites accept fewer items than do staffed sites operated by Recycling BC.
“People want to do the right thing, but they’re confused,” said Edwin Grieve, who represents Area C on the CVRD.
Colleen Evans, one of the Campbell River representatives, added, “I just feel there needs to be more, better-informed communications.”
Some board members made the argument the problems with the decision to provide single-stream bins rather than have separate bins for separate items.
“This is a direct result of us switching over to the single stream from the separated streams on recycling,” said Jim Abram, who represents Quadra and the Discovery Islands on the SRD.
Recycle BC operates sites around the region that accept a wide range of items for recycling. In addition, CSWM runs depots, such as the four in question, which do not take several kinds of materials. These include glass and various plastic items, according to the CSWM website.
A few on the board opposed the changes, saying closing these sites, especially ones that serve rural populations will only lead to illegal dumping.
Charlie Cornfield, one of the Campbell River representatives, questioned the decision to close the two sites in his community without something else in place.
“Change is difficult. If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it right,” he said.
He made a motion to have staff consider the financial impacts of keeping the Strathcona Gardens site in Campbell River for now until there is a viable alternative. This amendment was added to a motion to reconsider the Campbell River closures but failed to gain enough support at the board table. The board then passed the main motion to close the two Comox Valley sites.