The Nanaimo Recycling Exchange will have to wait a little longer before it finds out if it can realize its vision for zero-waste recycling.
Nanaimo city council voted unanimously at Monday’s meeting to consult with a lawyer to find out the legalities of financially supporting the NRE, and also to review more closely the financial information contained in the NRE’s business plan.
A contingent from the non-profit recycling depot asked city council for $6.05 million to build a new facility on Kenworth Road, and also for $665,000 over 2018 and 2019 to cover pre-operational costs during the depot’s current shutdown.
“We’ve proven zero-waste recycling is possible in Nanaimo. Nanaimo now has a new 90 per cent diversion recycling target. Zero-waste recycling is needed to meet that target, and zero-waste recycling doesn’t make money, it costs money, so sustainable funding is critical,” said Jan Hastings, NRE executive director.
Ben Geselbracht, NRE vice-chairman, said his group delivered a business plan that had been well-thought-out, costed and demonstrated community support.
“The new NRE facility is designed to give Nanaimo residents what they’ve come to expect, what they deserve and most importantly, what they hope for,” he said.
Hastings presented a virtual tour of the depot’s functions, with artist’s renderings of a new facility. She sought to explain how the depot would provide education alongside its other functions, and she talked about hazardous material disposal, expanded repair and reuse operations and more. Hastings said the business plan outlines what could be achieved with a dedication to zero waste and a one-stop-drop depot.
“People want to do the right thing – they do not want to spend their entire Saturday doing it,” she said.
Not everyone was sold on the depot’s vision. Coun. Jerry Hong questioned the NRE’s efforts around education, and wondered if for-profit haulers should receive city support.
“Recycling does cost money. So maybe we should look at funding private companies as well, because I think with recycling, to get to our 90 per cent, you’re just one little piece of it, from what we’re told from the RDN,” Hong said. “And I think that the private guys are going to have to step up as well and they might need money as well to do it. And I think to level that, it makes perfect sense.”
He asked Hastings what she thought of his idea.
“That would be up to you,” she replied. “We’re here with our proposal and our vision for zero waste in Nanaimo.”
“This is not about you,” Hong said. “This is about waste. For us as a council, we want to get to 90 per cent and one organization isn’t going to do it. I think we need help from everybody.”
Seven delegations spoke on the topic, with only one supporting the NRE and the other six suggesting the non-profit shouldn’t receive $6 million in taxpayer money.
Craig Cookman, spokesman for the Vancouver Island Recycling and Waste Industry Coalition, said for-profit waste businesses have taken on the additional workload since the NRE’s shutdown and are willing to continue to work to meet the waste diversion goals in the city and region.
“With our proven business plans and operations … we can adapt quickly to any industry changes,” he said. “We’ll continue investing our locally earned monies into our locally owned properties to expand our operations if warranted, purchase equipment and hire and train more local people, all allowing us to give back to our community in many more ways that one, all while absorbing the level or risk from the taxpayers.”
According to a staff report, a capital grant of $6.05 million to the NRE, if paid for by sanitation user fees, would add $9-18 per year to household bills.
Coun. Bill Yoachim made the motion to seek legal counsel and check the NRE’s financials after hearing a recommendation by Wendy Fulla, the city’s manager of business, asset and financial planning. The staff report, authored by Fulla, noted that “the city would need to obtain legal advice on the implications of guaranteeing a mortgage for construction of a building on property that is not owned by the city.”
Monday’s motion did not mention timelines, but Coun. Ian Thorpe, acting mayor, said he hoped council would receive legal advice in a timely fashion.