The future of the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange was debated at Monday’s City of Nanaimo committee of the whole meeting. The NRE’s request for $6 million was referred to staff to look at options. NEWS BULLETIN file

Nanaimo councillors won’t decide yet on NRE request for $6 million

City councillors ask staff to look into options to support non-profit recycling exchange

City councillors aren’t ready to make any decisions quite yet about the future of the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange.

The fate of the not-for-profit depot was put off at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, referred back to staff to look into options.

For the first time, the NRE made public its request of the City of Nanaimo – $6.05 million to cover construction of a new facility on Kenworth Road. But the recycling exchange didn’t provide further financial information.

“I need to see a financial plan, I need an operational plan and I need to see a business plan,” said Coun. Sheryl Armstrong. “Because I can’t make a decision without that, because that’s like investing in something and not knowing anything about it.”

Coun. Bill Bestwick wondered if the NRE had considered long-term planning in regards to factors such as changes to Recycle B.C. funding and the changing markets for recyclables.

NRE representatives talked about how the exchange has a 25-year history of adapting. Jan Hastings, NRE executive director, said recycling certain items has become unprofitable over time.

“This kind of recycling will never pay for itself,” she said. “From this day forward, these products will need to be recycled with public funds or we put it in the landfill. We have to decide which.”

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Ben Geselbracht, vice-chairman of the NRE, also suggested there was a choice to be made.

“Priorities that choose to permanently bury anything in the Earth or burn them up into the sky when they can be recycled, just for the reason to try and save a buck, are not the values of the people of Nanaimo and certainly not priorities that reflect valuing a healthy environment,” he said.

Ilan Goldenblatt, Vote Yes NRE campaign manager, reported that the campaign has been supported by 7,300 people and he showed maps indicating that the support was spread across the region.

“We understand that this council has experienced a lot of pushback over some large-scale projects in recent years,” said Goldenblatt. “Here in front of you is a project that already has the backing of the community.”

During discussion, city staff and members of council were unclear on the NRE’s request and the non-profit was unclear as to what information it hadn’t provided. Hastings said a business plan wasn’t presented because the NRE had never been asked for one, though councillors contradicted her. City councillors referenced an in-camera report prepared for the Regional District of Nanaimo, but Mayor Bill McKay said that report had looked at a previous request for the city or RDN to build the facility and lease it to the NRE; since then, the NRE had modified its request and was asking for money.

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Hastings said without the city’s help, the NRE will have to turn to site closure. Under the terms of its current lease, it has to demolish all buildings and leave a level lot and Hastings said that work will cost $100,000 “of some very hard-earned recycling depot money.”

Coun. Ian Thorpe said he understood why councillors wanted to see a business plan but added that “we are talking about a not-for-profit here” and made the motion for staff to look at options for the city to financially support the NRE’s request.

“What is the picture if the NRE ceases to exist?” he asked. “The short answer is Nanaimo will recycle less.”

The motion passed with only Bestwick opposed.

RELATED: Campaign begins to keep Nanaimo Recycling Exchange open

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