U-turn possible on recyclers’ plan to end glass pickup

Multi-Material BC proposes compromise of less frequent curbside collection

Glass may still be collected from homes at curbside – just less often – after the industry-led agency charged with taking over blue box recycling proposed a possible compromise.

Multi-Material BC still takes the position that glass jars and bottles can’t be mixed in with other blue box recyclables because they break and contaminate plastic and paper, reducing their value and the odds of the reformed system reaching its diversion goals.

It initially wanted to end glass curbside pickup when it starts overseeing local recycling in mid-2014 and have residents bring glass jars and bottles to depots instead – a move Metro Vancouver directors see as an inconvenient and unacceptable reduction in service to residents.

But Multi-Material BC (MMBC) chair Allen Langdon suggested to Metro’s zero waste committee that curbside pickup of glass could continue at reduced frequency if it’s not co-mingled with other material.

“Maybe once a month and through a separate container,” Langdon said April 4. “Let’s maintain the curbside convenience but let’s address the issue.”

He said glass is a small fraction of what would be picked up, so less frequent pickup of that stream is viable.

Metro directors are still suspicious – MMBC has yet to revise its plan to include the idea – so they voted to send a letter to the provincial government opposing elimination of glass pickup.

Langdon said most glass bottles and jars residents think they’re recycling actually end up broken and landfilled.

“It’s one thing to collect this material but we also want to make sure as much gets recycled as possible,” he said.

Langdone estimated just 15 per cent of glass gathered through blue boxes is now recycled, and that counts uses such as road aggregate.

He said broken glass can increases the risk of worker injury and equipment damage in single-stream recyclable sorting machines used by some cities, such as Surrey.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan called MMBC a “little oligarchy” being set up that ends control of recycling by local cities.

“It seems to be an attempt to find a one-model-fits-all solution,” he said, warning it could degrade Metro Vancouver service toward the levels in B.C.’s more rural regions.

Asked by Port Moody Coun. Rick Glumac how the new system will benefit municipalities, Langdon said blue box recycling will no longer cost cities and their taxpayers a dime and pledged more types of materials will be recycled than are today.

The system is flexible, Langdon said, allowing household-separated systems to continue, and letting cities to act as the contractor to provide the service, provided they accept the price to be offered by MMBC.

Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer said she doubts MMBC’s low estimate of glass recycling rates and said she’d like to see more data.

The province has charged MMBC, comprised of retailers and manufacturers, with collecting and recycling all types of packaging and printed paper. It’s hoped packaging will be reduced over time as producers begin to bear the cost of dealing with it.

Corinne Atwood, executive director of the B.C. Bottle Depot Association, suggested the province add a refundable deposit to the cost of milk containers and others, including glass containers.

She said the recycling rate on those containers would soar with the incentive to bring them to depots for a refund.

The province’s position is that a milk container deposit would be a hardship to families.

North Vancouver District Coun. Roger Bassam also opposes the idea, saying it further commoditizes the recycling stream – turning it more into a money-making machine for some – rather than keeping the focus on reducing waste and recycling what is left.

Single-stream recycling sort centre in Surrey