Halifax could be setting bad recycling precedent

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Halifax could be heading in a direction most Nova Scotians prefer it don’t go with its proposed changes to how people recycle and how much money they get back for those empty beverage containers.

City council is considering a staff report that proposes putting empty pop and beer bottles in the blue bags destined for the curb instead of sending them to local Enviro-Depots where people receive a five cent refund on each container they recycle.

It’s something that’s going to be watched closely by other municipalities, including those in northern Nova Scotia, because what works in one place can work in another. Hopefully it’s an example they don’t follow.

Nova Scotia’s municipal units have long complained about the increasing cost of waste diversion and the lack of funding support from the province. Halifax has taken it another step by looking for other ways of paying the bill – including taking away residents’ ability to take their empties to a recycling depot and getting back some of their money.

Understandably, those people who run recycling depots and organizations that collect pop and beer bottles as fundraisers aren’t impressed, and while Halifax may be several weeks or months away from considering a proposal it’s certain to be a battle.

In response to Halifax’s plan, the chief executive officer of the Resource Recovery Fund Board is voicing his concerns about what impact removing the refund could have on keeping waste out of the landfill.

Jeff MacCallum said the province’s deposit-refund program consistently has an 80 per cent return rate on beverage containers. Curbside collection programs, such as what’s being suggested in HRM, only have a return rate of about 50 per cent.

On top of that, the system employs people working at Enviro-Depots, regional processing centres, an end-market processor in Amherst and truck drivers across the province.

Halifax can’t be blamed for trying to think outside the box, but the changes it’s proposing could have serious repercussions. As much as the city believes its changes will help it pay its bills , it has to consider how it’s going to impact people’s willingness to recycle – especially if it removes the reward that is the five cent refund. We cannot forget the impact these changes could have on those organizations that rely on the money raised through bottle drives. And, what will happen to those independent businesspeople whose investment in staff and equipment will be threatened?In the end, it could be too much pain for too little gain.

 

 

Organizations: Enviro-Depots, Resource Recovery Fund Board

Geographic location: Northern Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia, HRM Amherst

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