Juan Cadavid, Nanaimo Recycling Exchange forklift driver, moves a bail of plastics to be sent for recycling. Film plastics are one material not accepted by some other recycling services that the public can dispose of at the recycling exchange. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Recycling Exchange’s existence in question

Depot will meet with regional district and city to talk solutions

Nanaimo Recycling Exchange could shut down in eight months without help from local governments.

The City of Nanaimo and Regional District of Nanaimo plan to meet with Nanaimo Recycling Exchange, after receiving a letter appealing for renewed attention to the depot and a meeting to discuss solutions for NRE, which may stop providing service March 31 of next year.

The recycling exchange has been looking to build a new facility since 2012, unable to find an existing one that’s suitable to rent or lease. Its current lease expires next March and while it’s purchased property, the NRE is finding its construction budget is unmanageable.

Jan Hastings, executive director of NRE, said in her letter to local government that the determination of NRE’s future cannot wait months or even weeks, the depot is out of options and there doesn’t seem to be a way for it to continue to operate without assistance at some level from local government.

Hastings told the News Bulletin there have been conversations with the city and RDN and NRE has asked for assistance before.

“We’ve been asked, can you build something cheaper, can you come back with a smaller number, maybe you could find a partner, so we’ve spent the last two or three years doing everything that has been asked of us,” she said, adding the depot has explored partnerships with other recycling organizations and tried working with a developer who could build and lease to NRE. “Nobody can build something with all the regulations required and lease it back to us at something that’s affordable for the NRE.”

There’s now a cheaper design, but it’s not cheap, Hastings said, adding that’s when there was the realization that NRE can’t manage all of the debt.

“We are performing this service for the RDN and the city by keeping all of these hard-to-recycle items out of the landfill and so we’re going to ask for the community to step up and be involved here and the local government,” she said.

The kind of assistance NRE wants from local governments are considerations Hasting said she’ll leave to talks with the city and RDN. The cost of the design will also be part of discussions.

Hastings also spoke to a vision to provide service to the region, with satellite depots for hard-to-recycle material and NRE as the clearing house. She said there’s a “huge opportunity” for the RDN and city to lead the way and show the model of local government and non-profit recycling depot researching and connecting products with entrepreneurs, who can do re-manufacturing.

“It’s all there for us, we just need the facility,” she said.

Mayor Bill McKay, also on the RDN board, said there are a number of different roles the city could have: taking over the project and considering NRE operating the facility on its behalf, for the city to have a conversation with the private operator to determine whether it could fulfill the role of NRE, or do nothing.

According to McKay, the RDN has a diversion goal of 90 per cent, and to head toward that, there are products like glass and books that nobody else collects, but somebody with ingenuity can find a market for.

“It’s time to take a sit down with all the parties involved and take a look at the model that we have with the NRE and determine whether or not there’s a role we want to play,” he said.

-files from Karl Yu

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