See the Forest for the Trees

Things are going very well with the Vote Yes NRE campaign, but a handful of responses have us wondering. Are some politicians and residents failing to see the forest for the trees?

It is easy to get bogged down in mind-numbing details such as tonnages of styrofoam, waste arbitrage and political beliefs. But those debates only serve to confuse and distract us from the main issue and the bigger vision.

Right now, 63% of what is in our landfill is recyclable. There is no question that we need to recycle more, and keep as many of those materials as possible out of the ground!

Our landfill has a limited lifespan, and once full, our waste costs will go up. Recycling, re-use and re-manufacturing create jobs. The new NRE facility that has been proposed would promote all these activities.

Zero Waste Heroes

“Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills or incinerators.”

Some recyclable materials have value in the commodity markets. Many materials do not currently have much value, but they are still recyclable. These are resources we should make use of, instead of depending on virgin extraction of raw materials for manufacturing. This is key for the future.

Like parks, hospitals and schools, Zero Waste focused recycling is not profit motivated. It is a necessity.

The Nanaimo Recycling Exchange is a Zero Waste success story. They recycle materials that have little or no financial value. Doing this takes a continuous investment of time and resources to find markets for these materials and keep them out of the waste stream. Representatives from other communities and other countries come here to study how they do it!

Now the for profit recyclers are claiming that they can do what the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange does if we pay them a tax subsidy.

Are our local decision makers willing to gamble away the successful model that the NRE has developed? If we’re spending tax dollars on Zero Waste recycling, doesn’t it make sense that the best bang for our buck will come from the non-profit organization that has been doing Zero Waste focused recycling in Nanaimo for 25 years?

The NRE, as a not-for-profit, reinvests profits into moving Zero Waste recycling forward. Their proposed new facility will be able to recycle even more materials, including mattresses and furniture. That is what I want to see my tax dollars invested in. After weeks of working on site and talking to thousands of NRE users, I know that most of you agree.

If we lose the NRE and don’t subsidize the for profit recyclers, what would happen? The answer is simple, they would have to charge fees to accept materials that are not profitable or subsidized. Charging fees is a disincentive to recycling. People will recycling less, more materials will end up in the landfill, and illegal dumping will increase.

In order for recycling to work it needs to be cheap and easy. That’s the reality for these times and that’s why the one-stop and mostly free drop-off model works. It works in the Cowichan Valley Regional District. They have the highest diversion in the province, because they have three government run facilities with no drop off fees. These facilities cost Cowichan Valley taxpayers much more than the NRE costs us here at the RDN.

Beyond Zero Waste

The NRE has always done much more than accept our recyclables. They do recycling education in our schools and on site. They create volunteer and employment training opportunities, in partnership with the John Howard Society, Nanaimo Foodshare, Vancouver Island University and other community organizations in our region. We will lose all this if we let the NRE shut down and look to the for profit recyclers as an alternative.

Profit motivations cannot dictate environmental leadership when it comes to waste diversion. This is what I mean by seeing the forest and the trees. We need the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange AND the for-profit recyclers. At the RDN meeting, Director Kipp said, “We need to be allies and not adversaries. We all need to come together and get this done.”

I agree.

We want our representatives to make a commitment to a new NRE facility. To step up and get the job done!

Ilan Goldenblatt
Vote Yes NRE

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