Recyling contamination has Duncan facing fines

The City of Duncan has the worst contamination rate in curbside recycling on Vancouver Island

The City of Duncan has the worst contamination rate in curbside recycling on Vancouver Island, and if it doesn’t clean up its act, faces fines and a potential ban from Bings Creek transfer station.

The average contamination rate for other municipalities on the Island, excluding Duncan, was 6.2 per cent in 2015, while it was 15 per cent in Duncan.

The items considered contaminants include plastic films, paint cans, Styrofoam, metal and solid plastics like those found in toys and electronics.

The city could face fines from Multi-Material BC, which processes recycling material from Duncan, and the possibility of losing Bings Creek as a local drop-off location for recyclables if steps are not taken to deal with the contaminants.

That would require the city to truck its recyclables directly to the MMBC facility in Nanaimo, at considerable extra cost.

The agreement Duncan has with MMBC, the same as with all other Island communities MMBC serves, requires the city to ensure contamination of its recycling materials be below three per cent.

Up to this point, MMBC has been taking a staged approach to enforcement of fines, and Duncan has not incurred any to date.

But, if enforced, the city could face a penalty of $5,000 per load of recyclables, to a maximum of $120,000 per year.

In a report to council, Lucas Pitts, Duncan’s director of public works and development services, said officials from MMBC have commented informally that the grace periods for the city to comply are almost over.

He said, as a result, the city will engage in a number of public education and outreach initiatives to try to correct the problem, beginning this summer.

“There will be an increased number of physical checks through curbside inspections aimed at correcting collection habits, similar to the program that the Cowichan Valley Regional District recently implemented,” Pitts said.

“The city will spend the rest of the summer on educating residents, distributing information, recording addresses and leaving contaminants on the curb. The official enforcement policy will begin in September.”

Pitts said the first step will be placing tags on the lid of the collection containers that have contaminants notifying the residents of the issue.

He said the recycling will continue to be picked up as long as the contamination is minimal or removed, but the addresses will be recorded and targeted for future inspection.

Pitts said a formal letter will be sent to residents who continue to fail to comply after being notified, advising that their recycling will not be picked up if the waste is not sorted correctly.

“For residents who continue to contravene the rules, $100 fines will be issued, if required,” he said.

“City staff are also proposing to identify those that are consistently good recyclers by utilizing stickers with stars on them, similar to the ones used by the CVRD.”