"Winter can be harsh, especially for those not prepared, and it has felt long this year, but it is still beautiful."
“Winter can be harsh, especially for those not prepared, and it has felt long this year, but it is still beautiful.”

By: Korie Marshall

Recycling is only one of the R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and as a reader recently pointed out, it is the last one. If we reduce and reuse, there should be precious little left to recycle.

But that is really one of the points of stewardship programs – if the manufacturer has to pay for the recycling of the product, which is obviously passed on to the customer, then there should be less waste. It is a convoluted way to try to encourage people to reduce. And requiring residents to pay for garbage disposal has been, and continues to be, a way to encourage people to reduce and reuse – or recycle.

Northern BC has been far behind a lot of Canada in the recycling bit, but I think there are a number of things we can do about it.

I thank the Regional Directors of Fraser-Fort George for making the decision they did last week to keep recycling services throughout the district for another year. I know it is a scary idea because it is hard to tell what the final dollar cost is going to be, and it is even scarier to think that the rest of the region is going to have to pay for it without the help of the majority of the population (those in the city). But there would have been costs with any of the three choices.

If they had decided to end the existing services this month, we would have been paying more to tip and ship garbage, and our existing landfills would have been filling faster, though we would have saved the cost of the contract with Cascades Recovery. If you want to say, just on principle, that we shouldn’t have to pay twice – that we now will have the cost of disposal built into the products, and we still have to pay for a regional service to actually dispose of it – I agree. But I’m glad this is not the time our district stood so firmly on that principle, because there are other principles like looking after our environment, our future, and doing what is right, despite the fact that our provincial government has created another situation in which rural people are disadvantaged.

The second option of continuing service just until Prince George’s collection program kicked in didn’t really make sense to me, though I get the logic of at least continuing to divert recyclables until the majority of the district’s population – city residents – get the new collection service. But I think that with only two collection depots for businesses and multi-family homes (though there might be more coming), either they would have been extremely busy, or more recyclables would have been going into the garbage within the city as well.

I thank Cascades Recovery as well, for coming up with a better option for a longer term “fix.” I think the fact that residents seem to want continued recycling – enough to pay for it, when we shouldn’t have to – should be a strong signal to the province.

Because yes, I certainly agree that the province is making regulations and rules that put rural people at a disadvantage. This latest regulation for recycling of packaging and printed paper is certainly one instance, but it’s not the only one.

But now is not the time to sit back and relax about things. A year is not very long, and I think there are some things we, as residents, business owners, members of government, should keep in mind. First, I know there are lots of people who don’t realize what can currently be recycled at our transfer stations, and that means they are not doing it. We have to make people aware of what can be recycled, and maybe find ways to help them do it.

Second, we have to continue lobbying the provincial government to make this program and others better for rural residents. Putting pressure on Multi-Material BC might help, but I think for that pressure to be effective, it has to come from the manufacturers, the members of the stewardship program.

And third, we can’t sit around and wait for the province or MMBC to make decisions. I know there are great ideas in the valley, and in the district, great ways to reduce and reuse what we’ve got. I think if we all take a bit of responsibility to do what we can and to be cognizant of the potential impacts of each choice we make, it will go a long way.