By Michael Jessen
Every year thousands of West Kootenay residents have questions about recycling. They usually find the answers by calling one of three phone numbers: BC Recycling Hotline 1-800-667-4321 (located in Vancouver); Regional District of Central Kootenay Recycling Helpline 352-2412 or 1-800-268-7325 (located in Nelson) or Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Waste Reduction Office 368-0232 or 1-800-355-7352 (located in Trail).
To start the new year, here are some of the most frequently asked questions (and answers) about waste reduction and recycling. (I suggest you cut this column out and put it in a prominent place for future reference.)
Why can't I recycle all plastics? In theory, all plastics are recyclable. The difficulty is that in order for plastics to be recycled, there must be an end market for the materials and they must be separated into the same resin type. Each different type of plastic is indicated with a number stamped on the bottom of the container inside a triangle. In most cases, different resins do not mix well, bond or adhere to each other, making it difficult to make a durable, high quality end product. The chemical companies which control virgin resin production price the resins cheaper than the market price of recycled plastic. Recycled content legislation is required to help create a market for recycled plastic. Currently, less than 5 percent of the plastic manufactured each year in North America is recycled annually, the worst recycling rate of any recyclable material. Plastic collected in recycling programs often ends up in Asian countries -- not the answer to a North American problem.
Why are the materials collected in recycling programs in the West Kootenays not the same? Regional Districts are committed to the same minimum standards in implementing their Solid Waste Management Plans, but in order to meet the needs of local residents and work with differing tax bases, jurisdictions require some autonomy in how they provide those services. Different recycling program operators may also sell materials to different buyers resulting in different collection standards and quality requirements.
Can I recycle my refrigerator, freezer, stove, etc.? Transfer stations and landfills operated by the RDCK and RDKB accept these materials for a fee, but refrigerators and freezers must bear stickers indicating the freon has been removed. Columbia Recycle in Genelle accepts refrigerators and freezers containing freon for $15, the lowest price in the West Kootenay.
Can I recycle my Christmas tree? Christmas trees are now chipped instead of burned. In the RDKB, trees are accepted for free at the McKelvey Creek Landfill in Trail. In the RDCK, trees are accepted at all transfer stations and landfills for a $2 charge for a truckload. In Nelson, the Lions Club will pickup trees from residents on Saturday, January 9th for a suggested $2 donation. In Trail, the J.L. Crowe Grad Class is being paid by the city to pick up Christmas trees set out at normal garbage pickup spots on Saturday, January 16 and Saturday, January 23. Alternatively, residents can call city hall at 364-1262 for neighbourhood drop-off locations.
Is it true that all of the recyclables collected are just thrown in the landfill? No. All loads of recyclables are sorted and only the contaminants (materials not accepted for recycling in that program) are removed and sent to landfill. The RDCK and RDKB and member municipalities make every effort to ensure that recyclable materials are not landfilled. This is carried out through disposal bans, assistance and endorsement of local recycling markets, and an integrated approach to solid waste management -- reduce, reuse, recycle, compost.
Can I recycle my car battery? Most retailers will accept car batteries for recycling. Car batteries are also accepted at RDCK and RDKB landfills and transfer stations. Most car batteries in BC are recycled right here in the West Kootenay by KC Recycling in Columbia Gardens, south of Trail.
Can I recycle household batteries? Ni-cad rechargeable batteries are now part of a return to retailer system. Participating retailers include Canadian Tire, Zellers, Radio Shack, and Beaver Valley Communications in Trail. Ni-cads are commonly found in cellular and cordless phones, camcorders, power tools, children's toys, household appliances and security devices. For more information call 1-800-8-BATTERY.
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