Blue recycling bins may dot the streets in Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako municipalities, depending on future plans and public feedback received from the RDBN’s proposed Solid Waste Management Plan. (Photo courtesy of Peter Kaminski, Creative Commons Licensed)

Solid Waste Management Plan begins public consultation phase

The Regional District of Bulkley Nechako updating a 20 year old strategy

Over the last six months, the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) has been updating their 1996 Solid Waste Management Plan, with the proposed plan finally entering the public consultation phase.

The process to update the plan began in 2017, with a review, conducted by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s Board of Directors and most notably Rory Mckenzie, the Director of Environmental Services for the regional district.

The review began with a deep-dive into the current infrastructure and programs that the regional district currently uses to manage municipal solid waste. They also formed a Regional Solid Waste Advisory Committee earlier this year to represent communities and groups throughout the region, all in accordance with provincial guidelines courtesy of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

Their first outreach in public opinion came back in December, 2017, when the regional district issued a survey for public opinion. The results of this initial survey and other various technical documents were amassed and presented for discussion to the Advisory Committee over the past five months.

The proposed Solid Waste Management plan was developed through discussion, conversations and deliberations from the Advisory Committee, RBDN staff and consultant recommendations.

Nearly a month ago, on May 24, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s Board of Directors finally endorsed the proposed Solid Waste Management Plan to go out for public consultation.

This consultation process will include multiple opportunities for members of the public and concerned stakeholders to provide input, feedback and discussion on the proposed plan throughout the month of June.

Regional District staff and consultants will be presenting the plan to municipal and First Nation councils with public input sought through public meetings and an online survey.

Based on public input, the proposed plan may change and then will be sent back to the Regional Solid Waste Advisory Committee for a final review, while being subsequently sent to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

On June 13, at the District of Fort St. James Council meeting, Rory McKenzie, the Director of Environmental Services for the RDBN, Janette Derksen, the Deputy Director of Environmental Services and Carey McIver, the president of McIver & Associates consulting firm gave a presentation on the proposed Solid Waste Management Plan.

“In B.C., under the Environmental Management Act, every regional district is required to have a Solid Waste Management Plan,” said McIver, a solid waste management specialist who holds more than twenty years of experience designing, delivering and evaluating programs for waste management.

McIver outlined that the blueprint for this proposed solid waste plan, which includes recycling, organics and garbage, will be completely comprehensive over the next 10 years, while being a long-term 20 to 30 year visionary plan, in which future programs and infrastructure goals will be identified.

“The proposed plan covers all aspects of the solid waste management process”, said McIver. “Collection, recycling, composting, waste reduction, disposal, financing, education and follows the pollution prevention hierarchy. Reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and then residuals management.”

During her presentation, McIver went on to explain that the province of British Columbia does not set a direct target for regional district waste management. The region itself is actually mandated to create a waste target that works for their unique situation.

The unique situation that the residents of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako face is that the region itself is quite expansive.

“Because this regional district is so big, you’re in about five or six different waste sheds,” said McIver. “One of the reasons why I’m so sympathetic towards this situation is that if I had to jump in my car and go to the landfill back in Nanaimo, it took me maybe 20 minutes. Here, some people are looking at two hours, so there are clear challenges.”

Going forward, however, the province has set average, provincial wide targets for each district to achieve. This average sits at 472 kilograms of garbage, per person, per year.

Currently, as outlined in McIver’s presentation, the RDBN produces approximately 600 kilograms of garbage, per person, per year. This is across residential, commercial, construction and demolition sectors.

To put that into perspective, with the approximately 38,000 residents who currently occupy the RDBN, the total amount of garbage per year would fill around 18 Olympic sized swimming pools each year, with around one-third of that being recyclable material.

The proposed Solid Waste Management Plan aims to decrease the amount of solid waste sent to the landfill to 500 kilograms per year, per person. This would bring the RDBN down much closer to the aforementioned average of 472 kilograms of garbage, per person, per year.

But what is actually included in the regional district’s draft plan?

Throughout the presentation, it was clear that the number one priority in this iteration of the Solid Waste Management Plan is expanding access to recycling for the residents of the RDBN.

Through a partnership with RecycleBC, the RDBN’s draft plan states that RecycleBC will accept residential packaging and printed paper at all public transfer stations across the regional district, as well as at the Knockholt sub-regional landfill.

Furthermore, the plan aims to expand public education on the matter, to further encourage a greater use of the available residential and commercial recycling services.

In terms of composting, future expansion of organics diversion opportunities are detailed throughout the plan, with a focus on partnerships with municipalities and development of infrastructure in the RDBN to be able to produce usable and sustainable soil.

“What we’re doing in the plan is saying ‘take care of recycling first’ and then move to composting and see what we can do later down the line,” said McIver.

Finally, the RDBN is focusing on developing a fair and sustainable way to feasibly fund this project. The presentation stated that the cost to manage municipal solid waste is projected to increase over the next 10 years.

Currently, property owners pay for solid waste management through taxes regardless of the amount of garbage they produce. This could suggest that some residents and businesses are paying the same amount for different levels of service. One of the issues brought up in the plan is whether fees should be tied to the amount of garbage generated.

For more information and to complete the public survey, please visit rdbn.bc.ca.

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