Cardboard recycling continues to be a problem without a solution in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN).
Last week, the district and the Town of Smithers hosted a virtual roundtable called “Connect 4 Cardboard” to discuss the issues surrounding ICI (Industrial Commercial Institutional) cardboard recycling in the district.
The virtual session had around 40 participant including members of the RDBN board, representatives of the Town of Smithers, members of Chamber of Commerce Network and several other interested stakeholders from the Lakes District and surrounding area.
The regional district has been working at finding a solution for the cardboard issue for a while now. In June, the board of directors carried a motion to develop a pilot project with the goal of recycling 50 per cent of residential and ICI cardboard in three years. However, a more permanent, long-term solution is being sought.
Alex Erikson, the RDBN director of environmental services highlighted the two main problems for recycling cardboard, the high cost of transportation and the dangers involved in transporting large volumes of cardboard over longer distances.
Possible solutions were also discussed during the roundtable, from finding a facility that would consolidate cardboard for transportation into bale loads, to helping boost the local economy with private businesses using the cardboard to possibly make pellets out of it. Another possible solution that was discussed was of “circular economy” in which recycled cardboard would be used for things such as livestock bedding.
Mark Fisher, Area A (Smithers Rural) director for the RDBN elaborated on this: “Circular economy is not just about recycling, but about repackaging things effectively.”
Several stakeholders and businesses chimed in during the Q&A toward the end with what they were facing or the solutions they were able to offer.
The Smithers Public Library presented their problem of not having a solution for recycling books that aren’t sold during their book sales. Wendy Wright, library director, mentioned they have almost 50 boxes full of books that need to be recycled each year and since the Tatlow Rd. facility that used to accept these books burned down in May 2019, they are now going to the dump.
In response to the library’s problem, Erikson informed representatives no recycling program is currently available for books.
A few other representatives such as Casda Thomas, acting Smithers mayor, Shane Mooth, manager for Canadian Tire, Mike Bundoch, manager for Bulkley Valley Wholesale, Chuck Braun of Loop Industries and Luis Gonzales, the Northern B.C. district manager for Waste Management also weighed in on the problem and while taxing the community saw opposition, everyone unanimously agreed that a need for a sustainable solution was essential.
One of the participants said that she would be willing to pay if she knew cardboard would definitely get recycled and not just thrown away in the dump. Fisher noted the regional district has seen a lot of businesses are supportive of this.
Fisher also urged everyone to write to the Province to include commercial recycling with the residential recycling program.
“Put pressure on the Province; we had received a verbal commitment that they would include it with residential recycling but it is not fast enough,” he said adding he would now be taking the request from the roundtable to the RDBN to create a template for such a letter that people can submit.
Following the May 2019 fire that destroyed the receiving facility in Smithers, cardboard was diverted to the Knockholt landfill. The RDBN then issued a ban on cardboard at the landfill as it started threatening its stability, but later announced in a press release they would be suspending the cardboard ban and would revisit the decision on a month-by-month basis until Nov. 1.