Parked in between Kenworth Road and Cienar Drive lies the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange depot.
Piles of Styrofoam, rows of old toilets and all kinds of metallic and plastic junk can be seen lying out in the open as if abandoned in some kind of organized fashion. The wooden structures that dot the property look old and worn and the pavement, or what is left of it, has plenty of potholes. And when it comes to parking, it can be challenging, and at times dangerous.
Yet despite all of this, hundreds of people come to the depot each day to drop off unwanted items that might otherwise end up in a landfill or discarded along the Nanaimo River.
Operated by the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange Society, a non-profit organization, numerous items can be dropped off at the NRE including Styrofoam, fluorescent tubes, hydraulic and transmission fluid, electronic equipment, appliances and even well-read copies of the News Bulletin.
However, the NRE’s lease on the old site is set to expire in March and there is a very real possibility that the depot could cease operations in three months’ time if something isn’t done.
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The NRE has been seeking financial assistance from the city to construct a new facility at a location next to its current site, stating that it does not have enough money to cover construction despite never publicly stating how much a new facility might cost.
In October, the city decided to refer the NRE’s request for financial assistance over to the Regional District of Nanaimo, which has yet to make a decision. With just a few months to go before the NRE’s lease expires, a grassroots campaign has started in hopes garnering public support for a new NRE depot.
It’s clear that the NRE is a tremendous asset to the community, as it provides a service to residents at a very low cost. But it’s understandable that city councillors might be a little wary about committing public money toward a project with no estimated construction cost. At least with the proposed event centre, the city was able to provide an estimate.
A staff report in July 2017 indicates that when the NRE submitted plans for a development permit it also requested that councillors waive a city requirement for upgrading off-site works and services – such as sidewalks and sewer – arguing that by doing so it would reduce the construction costs by $400,000. That information, along with an examination of the NRE’s renderings for a new facility, suggest the project won’t be cheap.
Despite all this, the city and RDN must work with the NRE to find short-term and long-term solutions. A new facility won’t be built within three months even if funding were approved today.
Whether it be partnering with the NRE, or providing financial assistance, or even offering to extend their current lease until a more permanent solution can be found, something must be done.
After all, Nanaimo city councillors recently voted to ban plastic bags from retailers because they felt it was important to take immediate action and protect the environment for future generations.
So, what are they waiting for?