Members of the public provide feedback on the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange’s draft business plan at a meeting Saturday at the Beban Park social centre. NEWS BULLETIN photo

Nanaimo Recycling Exchange presents draft business plan

NRE delegation will go back before city council June 11 to ask for $6.05 million

A new Nanaimo Recycling Exchange would be more than just a replacement facility, say proponents.

NRE officials presented their draft business plan at a public meeting Saturday as they prepare to present a finalized plan to Nanaimo city council in two weeks’ time. The non-profit will ask again for $6.05 million for construction of a new depot, plus start-up costs.

NRE executive director Jan Hastings said the public meetings aren’t just to share the vision for the recycling exchange, but also hear what the community wants.

“A hub for sustainable living, as opposed to just a recycling depot – what would that be and what does that bring to the community?” she asked.

Ben Geselbracht, NRE vice-chairman, talked about some of the functions of a proposed zero-waste material recovery centre.

“It’s designed to meet the growing and changing needs of recycling for the city,” he said. “it would be a community hub for zero waste education, outreach, advocacy and research and it would also develop and expand the innovative programs in reuse and repair that are central components of the zero-waste vision.”

The NRE delegation plans to go back before council to ask for $6.05 million to construct a new facility, but will provide a more detailed breakdown of that price tag. Hastings said city bylaw considerations and environmental requirements for a recycling centre are factored into the cost.

Not included in the $6.05 million is $300-400,000 of “pre-operational” money needed, Geselbracht said. The NRE had to pay for things like employees severance and demolition and is continuing to pay the mortgage at the proposed Kenworth Road site without any recycling revenue to offset costs. There are also start-up costs as the NRE anticipates it would take about three months before revenues start to come in at a new depot.

The draft business plan shows the past three years of the NRE’s operations, which it says show a small surplus each year. It projects the next 12 years, assuming current contracts would be in place – a city staff report from 2017 shows that the city provided $77,400 per year to the NRE plus a tax exemption – and factors in a planned membership drive and revenue from recycling and the re-use store. The plan calls for an expansion of repair and upcycling at the site.

Not factored in is yard waste. Hastings said the Regional District of Nanaimo is no longer committing to its past contract around yard waste, so that program will cease or change, though the NRE wishes to continue a yard waste program.

“The one-stop drop model is the most convenient [and] yard waste is a great component of that,” Geselbracht said.

Hastings suggested the $300,000 in annual funding committed earlier this year by the RDN would go a long way to allowing the NRE to expand operations at a new facility.

“The $300,000 is meant specifically for zero-waste recycling and everything that goes along with that,” she said. “It’s the hard-to-recycling stuff that there’s a cost attached to recycling it. It’s going to be really helpful for recycling of mattresses and furniture and car seats and futons and carpet underlay and carpet. It’s going to make a big difference to getting those programs started.”

She said overall, the new site is designed to do everything that was done at the old site, plus more.

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“When you really look at the reuse and the recycle, the environmental goals, the social equity outcomes of this, the economic benefits, you couldn’t have a project that is more aligned with the city’s strategic planning documents…” Geselbracht said. “And so it really makes an extremely strong case that this is the highest, best use of city money to be invested in the community.”

He said the finalized business plan will be presented in plenty of time for city councillors to review it by the June 11 meeting. Hastings said “we certainly need a decision quickly” and Geselbracht said he’d like to see a decision made that night.

“Depending on how individuals vote, it’ll be clearly demonstrated, I think, where their values lie. It’ll speak for itself, the decisions around this,” he said. “I know that the community’s very supportive of this and that it is for their benefit and it is a very well laid-out argument.”

The day before the NRE presented its draft business plan, the Vancouver Island Recycling and Waste Industry Coalition sent a letter to mayor and council requesting that the city and RDN refrain from committing $6.05 million “on a duplication of infrastructure and services [and] instead continue to work with existing depots, regioinal facilities, not-for-profits and retailers to increase waste diversion in Nanaimo.”

The VIRWIC letter says that since the NRE’s closure, the private sector has stepped up advertising and expanded the list of accepted items for recycling at depots.

“With the city and RDN supporting industry and not building a competing facility in the region, you have the ability to save taxpayers over $6 million in proposed capital costs and countless millions in operational money,” the letter reads. “Using taxpayer money to build a competing facility will only stifle the community from being provided greater consumer access and achieving province-leading recycling rates.”

The second public meeting on the draft business plan is Wednesday, May 30, from 7-9 p.m. at the Beban Park social centre. The meeting is not an open-house format but rather a presentation that will begin at 7 p.m.

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