Tonnes of paper in landfills

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is calling for the province's help regulating recycling of packaging and printed paper due to an overwhelming number of commercial businesses choosing to toss those items in the landfill. 

Businesses in the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional, or ICI, recycling stream have seen rising costs for recycling their paper products, the board heard at Thursday's meeting. Businesses both large and small have been forgoing recycling as a result. 

"Cardboard and paper make up a large portion of the materials that produce methane in the landfills as it breaks down over time. Businesses continue to place large amounts of office paper and cardboard in garbage," explained Cameron Baughen, solid waste management coordinator. 

"Other recyclable paper products, like single-use cups and wrappers, are a high percentage of the waste collected from restaurants."

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District is sending a letter to the province asking that they implement an Extended Producer Responsibility program for the ICI stream, which requires that the generators of a material pay for its disposal, and requested the RDOS do the same.

Currently, only residential producers are required to have an EPR program.

Baughen called it a "province-wide problem," and one that won't be solved just by local regulations.

"[These businesses] feel there is an expense to [recycling] that are over and above just them throwing it in the garbage. We have landfill bans locally, because once they come in as garbage through a black bag, we don't know what's in there," Baughen said.

"In some of these loads, one per cent of the load is paper cups. One per cent of a commercial load measures in the tonnes of paper cups coming into our landfill.

If commercial industries were required to recycle, the logic goes, there would be more impetus for large-scale recycling companies to enter the sector, thus opening up new opportunities and potentially driving down prices as the market becomes competitive. Businesses may also be more driven to reduce their recyclable waste at the source. 

Baughen said adding their voice to that of the TNRD on this issue may put more pressure on the government to act. 

"Just one group going forward isn't effective, whereas if they can see more than one regional district, then the minister might look at it a bit harder, and then engage that for 2020," he said. 

The board voted to send the letter to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, with an added request for public consultation on possible implementations of the new rules moving forward. 

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