Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Councillor Cote answers his mail -- good start!

It isn't easy being a city councillor. So many issues to keep track of.

To his credit, New West Councillor Jonathan Cote answers emails from citizens promptly. In response to my concerns about the switch to single stream recycling he said: The main reason I supported the proposal is that it would increase recycling rates and save the city $250,000 a year. Although there would be decreased revenue from recycled materials (because of contamination) but there would be lower cost because of fewer trucks and less staff..."

He asked me to elaborate on my concerns, so I said: my main concern is that we can't build a strong recycling industry with a collection system that degrades the quality of the materials.

As Clarissa Morawski reported in this excellent study of the impacts of single-stream recycling, the savings up front (to municipalities and the garbage companies) are offset by costs to manufacturers.

If cities and the garbage industry want to be part of the industrial system (and I am not at all convinced they belong there!) then they have to think of the health of the entire system, and not just their own costs.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Write to New West Councillor Jonathan Cote: more is not better

New Westminster just became the latest city in the region to switch to single-stream recycling. This is a really dumb decision. It goes against not only common sense but practical realities, and it will come back to haunt the politicians who fall for it.

The staff report that went to New West Council on April 4 recommended abandoning the curbside sort that has kept materials separate. Under the old curbside sort system, materials are collected in good condition and they can be sold for top dollar on the commodities market.

The rationale for abandoning this sensible practice is the assumption that more is always better.

Residents recycle more material, studies have found when they don't have to think. The New West staff report also reported that there would be more "contamination" of materials collected if the city switched to single-stream collection. But it drew the questionable conclusion that higher quantity outweighs the lower quality of the materials.

In a last minute presentation to Council, New West resident (and coordinator of the North Shore recycling program) made the case for keeping the curbside sort, but his advice was ignored. This week papers across the region are chalking up a victory for dumbed-down recycling.

In the recession of 2008 when the bottom fell out of the recycling market, municipalities with single-stream recycling were hardest hit. They were stuck with their huge piles of paper mixed with glass shards and messy yogurt cups, while cities that could offer clean streams of materials that had never been "contaminated" found ready buyers.

Canada's leading recycling magazine reported that single stream recycling is feeding markets in China, while starving our domestic recycling industry.

Wake up, New Westminster! Once a single-stream system is in place, it's a race to the bottom. The quality of the materials is set by the worst performing residents, and the efforts of those ov you who take the trouble to handle materials carefully are in vain. New West residents who want to do good recycling won't have any choice.

New West Councillor Jonathan Cote opined: "If you make it simple, more people will do it." Does he speak for you? Here's where to reach him:

Pic: Oregon Metro pays price for single stream recycling

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Saltspring brings Annie Leonard to speak!

If you can make your way to Saltspring Island the last weekend in May you can meet one of North America's shining lights of Zero Waste. Annie Leonard of Story of Stuff fame will be speaking at a fundraiser for the "Centre for Child Honouring." Here is a link to the poster with details.