Nanaimo Recycling Exchange worried about competition

Nanaimo Recycling Exchange is worried a facility looking to expand next door could create competition that negatively affects its operation.

Michael Schellinck

Michael Schellinck

The Nanaimo Recycling Exchange is worried a facility looking to expand next door could create competition that negatively affects its operation.

The non-profit started a petition to protest the proposed rezoning of 2375 Hayes Rd., across the street from the recycling exchange.

Michael Schellinck, executive director, questions why another facility is needed right next door to a recycling facility, when there aren’t any in the north or south ends of Nanaimo.

“At the end of the day, what you are going to do is take away from a community-based organization,” said Schellinck, adding that for the past 25 years, the NRE has worked to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill, and also runs education and outreach programs.

The rezoning applicant says the change, which would permit expansion and increase the company’s ability to take in more products, would be an improvement for the city.

“There should be no big worries for anyone,” said Paul Shorting, general manager of Regional Recycling Nanaimo (formerly the Nanaimo Bottle Depot). “At the end of the day, it’s convenience. It’s great for the public; where else can you go to one street and drop off your products?”

Shorting said the company has operated in Nanaimo for about 15 years and was previously located on Mostar Road, taking the same products it seeks to at the new location. Issues with traffic congestion and other concerns prompted the company to find a more suitable home.

“We didn’t just show up – we’ve been here for 15 years and have been doing the same thing. There is lots of work for the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange and lots of work for us,” said Shorting.

But Schellinck says the recycling exchange can’t fully compete, because there are only three bottle depot licenses issued for the central Island, and Regional Recycling Nanaimo holds them.

Rezoning would allow Regional Recycling Nanaimo, which is open for bottle returns, to take products such as scrap metal, electronics and small appliances, and waste paper – all revenue generators for the recycling exchange.

And without that revenue, the ability to provide free environmental programs in the community and schools could be in jeopardy, Schellinck said.

He worries that if the exchange starts receiving less of the revenue-generating materials, it might not be able to take in other items that have no value.

“At our facility we take over 50 different classes of materials, not all of them make money, a lot of them don’t make any money,” said Schellinck. “There are a few that do make us money and it’s those few that go towards supporting us taking materials that have absolutely no value.”

Schellinck said scrap metal can fetch upwards of $150 a metric ton but items such as plastic bags only generate up to $25 per metric ton.

“The bottom line is how much did we divert, but I still have to make enough money to take that plastic bag which is a negative for our operation. Nobody wants to take plastic bags, it’s a money-loser, they blow all over the place,” he said. “I lose money taking plastic bags. I want them, don’t get me wrong, I want them because I don’t want them going into the landfill.”

He added that plans to build an eco-recycling depot could also be affected.

The Nanaimo Recycling Exchange isn’t affiliated with the City of Nanaimo and doesn’t receive funding from the city or the Regional District of Nanaimo. It has contracts with both, which were won through the regular tendering process competing with for-profit companies.

“The NRE exists to divert as much waste as it can from the landfill, and that’s our mandate,” said Schellinck. “When we know we made more materials diverted from the landfill, we know it’s a good day.”

The rezoning issue went to the Plan Nanaimo Advisory Committee Tuesday and was recommended for approval.

“The location is quite suitable for the use they are going to have,” said Coun. Fred Pattje, committee chairman.  “Everything that will be delivered there will be handled inside with no outside storage.”

Pattje said some members of the committee raised the issue of competition, but PNAC only deals with land use issues and OCP amendments.