Comox Strathcona Waste Management is moving ahead on closing recycling bins at Courtenay Country Market and Strathcona Gardens in Campbell River this summer. Black Press file photo

Comox Strathcona Waste Management recycling bins still on schedule to be closed

Tainted items make region’s single-stream bins too costly; staff hope Return-It sites open soon

While some recycling options aren’t available as a COVID-19 precaution, Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM) still has its bins – for now.

It is proceeding, however, on closing a few throughout the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts, for which CSWM oversees waste management.

“We plan to close two of our non-Recycle BC depots,” says Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services for the CVRD.

The plan is to remove the Strathcona Gardens bins in Campbell River and Courtenay Country Market bins in the Comox Valley this summer, with two other sites to follow in 2021.

“This has been a pretty big issue for the board,” Rutten says.

Since last fall, the topic has been on the agenda for the CSWM board, which is made up of elected government representatives from the two regions. The CSWM bins, which are not monitored, are open to the public to drop off items in single-stream bins. However, while items need not be separated, there are several items like glass and various types of plastic that are not accepted. The problem is that too many people have been mixing in items that should not be going into the bins, leaving CSWM with a mess on its hands.

“Our rationale for this is that those depots suffer from quite a bit of abuse,” Rutten says.

At past meetings, staff have given presentations to the board concerning inappropriate materials being depositing into the single-stream bins. This typically results in close to 20 per cent of material being tainted, compared with just 3.5 per cent at staffed facilities. CSWM has estimated that with improvements to improve security and add staff, it could cost $825,000 a year.

RELATED STORY: CSWM board votes to close two Comox Valley recycling depots

Currently, most of the Return-It depots are closed throughout the region, although these operations typically take more items, which have to be separated. Most sites in the region are currently closed, though Rutten is hopeful this will change soon.

“What we’re expecting is that those Return-It depots will re-open,” he says.

Some B.C. locations are open, as long as they have appropriate distancing, safety and sanitizing measures in place.

“We’re anticipating that will happen with our local Return-It depots,” he says.

There are 169 independently owned and operated Return-It depots and three drop-off Express & Go stations throughout B.C. Encorp Pacific oversees the licensees and has been working with depots to bring in precautionary measures for staff and the public, including regular hand washing, wearing gloves, avoiding hand contact with the face, and social distancing. Some depots in B.C. have decided to close or reduce operating hours. Factors here include managing social distancing compliance based on the size of the depot – some depots have been able to manage this more quickly than others.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support depots in implementing precautionary measures as recommended by health authorities,” Allen Langdon, president and CEO of Encorp Pacific, said via email.

Return-It’s website is updated as depots change operating hours,. The public can search for depot locations and information such as current operating hours on the site. The interactive map currently shows the Denman Island branch as being open three days a week, while the Return-In Centres in Comox, Courtenay, Campbell River and Hornby Island are closed.

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