Have we killed the goose?
Ron Bolin: June 28, 2012
At the Public Hearing this evening at the Shaw Auditorium (which unfortunately will not be either broadcast or captured on video) Council decided to approve a rezoning application which will put a private recycling venture immediately across the street from and in competition with the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange which has operated as a volunteer supported venture for many years and has one of the best recycling records in the Province. The rezoning was to allow the new venture to expand from its bottle depot operation to a recycling centre which will now begin to accept all those materials which are profitable to recycle.
While there was some passionate defense of our existing centre from citizens and some question about its location next to the existing volunteer facility, Council responded that they could not take personal views into consideration. I submit, however, that the issue at hand was not one of personal views on competition, but rather the matter of overall benefit to the community. This is the responsibility of Council and this issue was absent from the discussion.
If one believes that setting in motion a sequence of events which will almost inevitably see a reduction, perhaps a sizable reduction, in the income generating materials available to the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange, then the right decision was made. But this, in turn, can be expected to lead to either the abandonment of the project or the need for additional funds from the City to maintain the recycling of the many non-profitable materials which they currently accept. Neither of these choices is of benefit to the community as a whole.
Where are these unwanted materials to go if the exchange is gone? Nanaimo has had an outstanding record in recycling. Have we killed the goose? Or will it just cost us more in taxes to make up for the profits made by the new and neighbouring recycling facility and the corresponding loses to our long time leaders in recycling?
“Where are these unwanted materials to go if the exchange is gone?”
Exactly my point when I got up and spoke which I had not planned to do. They kept on focusing on the idea that they weree not responsible for decisions about competition; a snow job at best. Focusing simply on zoning they had a choice whether to change the zoning or not and they chose to do so; they did not have to and don’t have to in every case.
All this worthless crap we divert from OUR landfill……does anyone know where it really goes? Cardboard and metal make sense, but what is the enivronmental cost of processing and transporting styrofoam or film wrap? Does it really make sense to keep it out of landfill?
I’m not really sure why the location of the new recycle guys is such an issue. The existing exchange does not handle bottle refunds, so people will be going to the other guys in any case? No??
If commodity prices take much more of a hit, this whole recycling business will be a non-starter anyway. The real key to the recycling mess is reduce, it is not recycle.
One would have to know more about the economics of recycling than I know to answer the questions that you raise. We can, however, take it that it somehow pays or there wouldn’t be any competition and we could find piles of glass, Styrofoam, batteries, flourescent light bulbs, paint and solvent cans, etc. dumped all over the place. The key to keeping this stuff off the streets is to find a way to blend the batter with the bitter which NRE seems to have done. Providing competition in only the profitable recyclables is the moral equivalent of sending our jobs off shore. It is profitable for some, but a detriment to the community as a whole. It takes without giving.
On the core issue of rezoning, I can’t see any reason for not allowing to rezone the land to accommodate a recycling company which is across the street from a place that is also in the recycling business? Interfering with competition should not be council’s role.
The matter of the rooftop sign is a whole different issue, which may just be one of those “that’s the way we do business in Nanaimo deals”. Don’t agree, but didn’t agree with the Corix deal either.
This council is more than willing to rubber stamp staff screw ups, and have demonstrated that on more than one occasion.
Council’s responsibility is not to monitor or control competition, but to assure that the best interests of the community are met. We can gauge the profitability of the business in recycling the profitable stuff by looking at the value of the property acquired for this purpose and the value of the sign which has apparently illegitimately been permitted to them. I also believe that I am correct in stating that the Recycling Exchange cannot be a bottle depot as this apparently profitable business has been let to private interests by government and does not allow competition.
The business is clearly not profitable since the exchange is getting about $100,000 a year from the city and RDN to help divert stuff from the landfill so obviously the commercial value is not sufficient to make handling profitable.
On the matter of competition, the new guys across the street are not being subsidized by anyone so you could argue the old exchange is already been given an advantage.
As for the recycling of bottles and cans etc., they can all be returned to the place of purchase providing you don’t wait until your trunk is full. I believe the exclusivity for Bottle Returns is so that it is kept commercially viable, else, the government would have to staff and man their own operations, and we all know how successful they are at running things.
Being out of town, I was not able to attend the Meeting. And, as it was not broadcast, nor captured on video, I ‘m not able to know the details. Was there any meaningful discussion regarding the rooftop sign? Has Council, in its wisdom, encouraged serious visual pollution and allowed the sign to continue to exist? If so, I agree with the previous comment that Council has again rubber stamped a Staff ‘screw up’ and has also failed to think, nor act, as an independent body.
The for profit recyclers will most likely recycle the profitable returns leaving the not for profit to rid the landscape of the more difficult ‘junk’ such as styrofoam.
That said the non profit company has invested in a machine to reduce the size of styrofom for ease of transportation & I ‘believe’ reuse.
The non profit who hire those with disabilities is unlikely to survive without the profitable returns of such things as bottles & other containers with a return deposit.
Another short sited decision by Nanaimo Council.
Why is everyone so certain people who have supported the non profit site, will discontinue? Perhaps a bit of a PR campaign on the part of the existing company could make the other company not profitable. If you need to get rid of empties, and cardboard, go to the new place, drop off your empties, and zip across the street and dump your cardboard.
This could backfire on the new guys, if the old guys have enough community support.
There are the kind of businesses that folks undertake, not only to make money, but because the business offers them satisfaction in other ways and it makes them happy. We used to respect these folks and patronize them because we recognized their passionate interest in the job they were performing. There are still some businesses like this around, but they are becoming harder to find as we turn to only one passion… money.
Don’t get me wrong, money is important, but it is not the only important thing. Ask those who had the passion but couldn’t make the income.
But I would hold that this is really the difference between real people and those “people” who have been created as corporations which, by their very nature, are dedicated only to profits. It is the difference between human scale and monster scale. It is the primary difference between the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange which is prepared to take on more than just the profitable and a corporation which is not interested in recycling any further than the money it can generate. We are all the poorer in the long run for our pursuit of short term objectives. And the piper is coming to demand his dues.
There is way too much short term thinking in Nanaimo that disregards the realities of the world & thinks Nanaimo lives in an impenitrable bubble that is a world of it’s own.
Not for profit all inclusive recycling as practised by NRE or even the Restore deserve to succeed.
Nanaimo has a wonderful consortium of recycle, restore,thrift stores etc.
They provide an avenue for employment, recycle & removal of unwanted products that the profiteering company will not likely surpass.
Whilst the private competition will likely take the cardboard & bottles etc it will leave toxic products such as paint to the ‘hippes” on the other side of the road..
NRE is a not for profit…..have you ever seen a balance sheet? What is actually paid in wages and admin fees etc.?
Jim: NRE is not only a registered society, it is a charity registered with federal tax program. You can check them out at:
Trust this will help you out.