Waste diversion in RDN steady

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s goal is to divert 90 per cent of waste from the landfill by 2030, and though the diversion rate has remained steady at 68 per cent for the last few years, two bylaws are anticipated to play a big role in closing the remaining gap.

Diversion of recyclable and compostable materials from the regional landfill has hovered around 68 per cent since the RDN’s 2018 solid waste management plan came into effect. A whopping 70 per cent of what continues to head to the landfill via residential curbside, businesses and institutions as well as self-haul is considered divertable materials.

How much divertable material is coming from residential curbside versus businesses and institutions versus multi-family buildings isn’t certain at this time; however, the RDN is set to begin a waste composition study. Findings will be released in early 2023.

Though the diversion rate has fluctuated marginally up and down over the last few years, Ben Routledge, RDN manager of solid waste services, expects it to remain steady for the near future.

“This is because we have essentially maxed out diversion with our existing programs, with yearly fluctuations the result of market conditions,” Routledge said.

“I have no doubt that when we analyze the final data from 2020/21 we will see increased volumes of diverted material, but we will also see an increase in waste generation overall, and we will more than likely still be at about 68 per cent diversion.”

Two new bylaws awaiting approval by the B.C. government, mandatory waste source separation (MWSS) and waste hauler licensing (WHL), will make up the bulk of increased diversion rates, Routledge said. The MWSS will require businesses, multi-family buildings and institutions to have a system to separate their waste into organics, recycling and garbage containers for collection. Through the WHL, businesses that haul waste for profit will require a licence. Under the bylaw, licensed haulers would receive a discounted tipping rate at the landfill for waste clear of any recyclable or compostable materials.

“Once the MWSS and WHL programs mature and reach their full potential, we believe we should be able to reach our diversion goals, but the timeline to do so is dependent on ministerial approval,” Routledge said. “The longer we wait, the longer it will take to reach our diversion goals.”

While there are no regulatory consequences if the regional district does not achieve its 90 per cent goal in eight years, the landfill in Cedar is estimated to reach capacity and close in the early 2040s. Multiple factors influence its ultimate lifespan, including long-term diversion rate, residential and commercial material volumes, economic and population growth. The design, operation and closure plan for the landfill is currently under review, Routledge said, which, once done, will present a clearer picture of long-term operations.

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