New items added to recycling stream though RDN expects few changes in residents’ habits

Provincially mandated changes to recyclable materials accepted at curbside mean Regional District of Nanaimo residents can officially include more items in their blue bins now.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy announced Jan. 6 that, as part of its CleanBC Plastics Action Plan, a new set of single-use plastic items and packaging products can go in blue bins while others will be accepted at depots. Newly accepted blue-bin items include: plastic plates, bowls and cups; plastic cutlery and straws; plastic food storage containers; plastic hangers (that come with clothing); paper plates, bowls and cups (with thin plastic lining); aluminum foil; aluminum-foil baking dishes and pie plates; and metal storage tins (thin gauge).

Recycle BC depots will now accept plastic sandwich and freezer bags; plastic shrink wrap; flexible plastic drop sheets and covering; flexible plastic bubble wrap (no bubble wrap-lined paper); flexible plastic recycling bags (blue, clear bags, or yellow or blue bags used for curbside collection); and flexible plastic carry-out shopping bags (reusable).

B.C. regulates the largest number of residential packaging and products in Canada through its extended producer responsibility programs, according to a B.C. government press release, where companies and producers are responsible for the collection and recycling of the products they create.

Kirsten Gellein, the RDN’s zero waste coordinator, says the inclusion of packaging-like products will make the recycling regulation and Recycle BC materials list better aligned.

“Prior to this change, Recycle BC was limited to residential 'packaging and paper' with the exclusion of ‘products’,” Gellein explained. Some items in the list of newly accepted curbside items, such as aluminum foil, were already listed as accepted materials in the RDN’s curbside program.

Aluminum foil “was both accepted and not accepted depending on the source,” Gellein said. “Foil wrap around take-out food would be considered 'packaging' and accepted by Recycle BC; a roll of foil wrap purchased by a resident in a grocery store would be considered a 'product' and not accepted by Recycle BC.

“Balancing contamination risk and confusion between the categories, the RDN would make considerations about whether to exclude or include foil and similar items in our materials list.”

The new changes should minimize confusion for residents, but the RDN doesn’t expect changes in residents’ recycling behaviour since, based on the regional district’s review of curbside collection, most residents have already been including packaging-like materials in their blue bins.

“While the new material stream will technically increase the number of categories accepted in the curbside recycling cart, solid waste staff do not anticipate it will be significant in residents' day-to-day recycling efforts,“ Gellein said. “The RDN understands the curbside recycling of packaging-like products was a common occurrence across the province, and the foremost reason for adding this category into the Recycle BC program.”

The RDN has an online tool residents can use to determine where to recycle items, whether at curbside or at a depot: www.rdn.bc.ca/what-goes-where.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder