No curbside recycling in Houston anytime soon

There won’t be curbside recycling in Houston anytime soon.

Following an extensive briefing note prepared by District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck, council has decided to shelve conducting a study to examine the feasibility of offering the service.

Pinchbeck cited a number of barriers, including the difficulty of fitting in with the province-wide program called Recycle B.C. that were considered by council in its decision.

The District had scheduled a feasibility study to take place next year at an estimated cost of $40,000.

That study would have set out required capital improvements, operating cost projections and volume of material needed to integrate into the Recycle B.C.’s existing program.

“After discussions with Recycle B.C. staff and in reviewing the service model for the province’s recycling program, staff have determined that a curbside recycling program would be difficult to establish within the existing Recycle B.C. service delivery model,” Pinchbeck wrote.

A significant contributing factor was the decision last year by China to stop taking plastic material for recycling because of its own environmental and health reasons.

As well, contamination within the plastic requiring the material to be better sorted spurred the Chinese decision.

Pinchbeck also noted an overproduction of plastics in Canada itself resulting from the Chinese ban.

“Certain recyclers are facing a 40 per cent cost increase due to the import ban put in place,” Pinchbeck wrote of his research.

“This cost increase is attributed to increased costs for labour, capital and transportation aimed at improving sort processes for material to reduce contamination.”

“Manufacturers are reportedly receiving recycled materials at below-cost, and the plastics industry has demonstrated a preference for generating new material compared to utilizing recycled materials,” Pinchbeck continued.

The potential for contamination within materials picked up for recycling by a District of Houston service and the need for better separation and additional handling by Recycle B.C. would also be a factor as it could be fined if the contamination level exceeds a set percentage.

“If the District were to implement a curbside recycling program, an additional challenge would be ensuring proper public eduction and compliance with recycling program restrictions,” Pinchbeck wrote.

“This includes maintaining a contamination incident rate of three per cent to ensure that materials collected by the District would be accepted at Recycle B.C. depots.”

And crucially for the District, current B.C. Recycle regulations state communities have to have a population of at least 5,000 people to tie into its program.

“Without significant policy changes at the provincial level, it is highly unlikely the District would be accepted into the Recycle B.C. program,” Pinchbeck noted.

Although council has cancelled the planned feasibility study, it will be raising the issue of participation by small communities at meetings this fall with provincial cabinet ministers, Pinchbeck said.

Those meetings will “discuss the District’s desire to participate in the Recycle BC program and the policy barriers at the provincial level that are preventing this,” he said.

In the meantime, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako has a plan to construct a depot and transfer station at the old Houston landfill site on Mountain View Drive.

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