Plastic garbage bags are not acceptable in you recycling. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Plastic garbage bags are not acceptable in you recycling. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Lake Cowichan must work harder to clean up its recycling

Contamination in Lake Cowichan’s recycling is far too high: council

Recycle BC’s audit of Lake Cowichan’s recycling has not been as good as expected.

“They conducted the audit yesterday, and there was concern expressed,” said Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez.

Lake Cowichan’s recycling has been including nine to 12 per cent contamination.

“We’d promised Recycle BC to keep it below three per cent,” Fernandez said. “They’ve compared us to Duncan, B.C. and Duncan is at three per cent. There are a lot of communities at six. We’re not doing very good. What Duncan has done and maybe we should look at is imposing a fine on people who are putting out material that’s not recyclable. Is that something Lake Cowichan should consider?”

What the audit particularly found was that people were trying to sneak film plastic into their recycling.

‘They [Recycle BC] went around yesterday to see what people had put out. They’d like us to improve on those numbers,” he said. “It’s mostly film plastic, grocery bags, and some Styrofoam and people need to ensure that recycling is placed loosely, not in plastic bags.”

Part of the solution starts at the collection end, part with public education.

“They indicated the contractor has been pretty good because he takes the Styrofoam out of the packages and leaves it behind. But if it’s in a bag he does pick it up. We’ve got to tell the contractor not to pick up shopping bags with stuff in them,” he said.

Coun. Tim McGonigle said some families are really making the effort, following a public education push on the town’s website, showing all the items that could be picked up

“Now, we need a more subtle push on what’s not allowed. No plastic, no grocery bags, no Styrofoam in roadside recycling. There are opportunities to take it up to a recycle centre on a regular routine. My wife has 14 different bags that I have to take to different places. I am certainly not contaminating my recycling. I’d be kicked out of the house if I did so,” he said. “We might need an educational opportunity again.”

Coun. Carolyne Austin said she has seen Styrofoam picked up and taken away.

“How do we tell people not to do it? Do we leave a note on the bag?”

Fernandez said that people will try to see if they can sneak something by the collectors.

“Even though people know that certain things cannot be put out, they will try it once and if they get away with it and see it picked up, they will keep on doing it and it gets worse,” he said.

McGonigle said that one more concerted effort to inform the public would be worthwhile.

“I just want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence prior to any consideration of a fine,” he said.

Mayor Ross Forrest suggested that “we could have somebody from Recycle BC come to our town meeting [in May]. Public education needs to be ongoing. Nine to 12 per cent is not acceptable. The town could eventually be looking at quite a substantial fine [over it].”