Save the NRE or pay (more!) later

This is the letter I have just sent to the mayor and council of the city of Nanaimo (mayor& is the e-address should you wish to do the same)

Mayor and Councillors:

I believe it was about three years ago I addressed the Regional District of Nanaimo, encouraging them to engage the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange, and noting to them how much the NRE benefits us all. Evidently the negotiations between the staff of the NRE and the City that followed went nowhere; the NRE simply did and does not have the capital to have met their expectations. Why should they? The NRE alone accepts materials that cost money to properly recycle. They do not get a slice of the income from recycling cans (apart from a few donations).

One of the materials they alone accept is Styrofoam. This material alone can occupy up to 25% of the space in landfills, but because the waste industry considers only the WEIGHT of materials the NRE is given inadequate credit for continuing to greatly extend the life of our regional landfill. In other words, they fail to appreciate the true value of the NRE.

What also seems to be evident that they and we fail to recognise that the NRE is capable of creating local employment by spurring new industries using our waste materials. Unlike most investments by the city these jobs would continue to increase over time, would benefit all people in our region, and would benefit the environment. Unlike any other investments a waste recovery centre would retain materials rather than burn or bury them, thus benefiting future generations, and would actually bring us to the 90% diversion rate envisioned by the city.

The NRE is the only true way we have been able to make up for the inadequate curbside provincial recycling program, a program that gives the RDN and city more than $2 million a year. Why isn’t at least some of this income being invested in the NRE and its vision of better utilising waste materials?? Please do not confuse the contract funds paid to the NRE with subsidy (an error I have heard made). The NRE is paid to engage in public education and to accept yard waste at its facility. This is not a subsidy. As far as I know it has never received any donations from the city or the RDN.

Given the fact that recycling, reusing, repurposing and composting generate double the number of jobs as do landfilling or incinerating waste materials, these measures also retain the latent energy required to create those materials in the first place, saves dwindling resources (we live on a finite planet), and that the NRE is uniquely poised to expand the opportunity to create local jobs, improve the environment, retain resources, spur industries in our region, and improve the local economy, why are the City and the RDN not seriously investing in this amazing non-profit?

I believe we have been getting a free ride for too long. Either the city and the RDN get serious about the benefits of the NRE or we fill up our landfill more quickly and/or get a far more expensive and polluting incinerator far sooner.

Nanaimo hosted Canada’s first Zero Waste International conference. Mr. McKay took in the event (then as a councillor). The City was a sponsor of that event. The international community is now watching to see if Nanaimo and the RDN will turn their backs on the opportunities that are laid at its feet.

I urge you to put some serious money on the table, and encourage the RDN to do the same.

Readers: if you wish to e-mail the RDN Directors here are their e-mail addresses:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; To contact Director Houle click here. Please note that Ian Thorpe, Bill McKay, Bill Bestwick, Jerry Hong, Kim Kipp, Gordon Fuller and Bill Yoachim are all city of Nanaimo councillors. Be respectful; they receive a ton of e-mails.


  1. Good for you! I have had to move away from
    Nanaimo, but I tell people what wonderful leadership they have shown with their Zero Waste initiatives. NRE was (and I hope will remain) a vital piece and an excellent resource. People across the country are watching!

  2. Thank you for the heads up! I think that an incinerator is not in any way a solution to our waste problem and will only be a disaster for our area. As you say in your blog "...recycling, reusing, repurposing and composting generate double the number of jobs as do landfilling or incinerating waste materials..." makes sense to me!


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