Nanaimo’s heart and soul of recycling may be facing its demise. While the NRE has inspired citizens, businesses, the city and the regional district to adopt strong waste-recovery practises, leading by example and helping to extend the life of the local landfill -costing us virtually nothing-, the NRE may be discarded early next year.
Why? Because the majority of the Nanaimo city councillors have been convinced that the NRE is the responsibility of the Regional District of Nanaimo (the RDN) while the Directors of the RDN are being steered by their staff to believe that the NRE is, in essence, not required.
The NRE primarily benefits residents and businesses in Nanaimo, yet technically its mandate falls under the RDN solid waste management. Yet the city utterly relies on the NRE to bolster its own recycling & composting initiatives. In fact the NRE is the principal waste recovery place to which the city’s website directs residents –because it is truly the one-stop centre, offering us far more than only recycling. The city and the NRE have been doing business together as long as both have existed.
The RDN’s plans on how it believes it will reach its goal of diverting 90% of the waste materials through composting, recycling and reusing those materials looks good on paper. They will try to take the region to a recycling/composting rate of 90% principally through education, enforcement and utilising private (for-profit) companies. While there is much in their plan that is worthy of praise it fails to appreciate that the NRE IS the flagship for authentic zero waste in our region. It inspires us to be better stewards of waste materials.
The NRE is special. It is sacred, even in its grittiness. The NRE represents the true essence of zero waste. It is our mascot. Fancy plans for taking us to zero waste are all fine, but such plans are dry and theoretical; they have no spirit. The NRE is gutsy and it has spirit!
Consider Nanaimo’s Colliery Dam Park. The bureaucrats decided (without sufficient information) that the dams were a) dangerous and b) the park would be fine if it were “re-naturalised” (no lakes, only a stream). Rationally, their plan made sense. But people were outraged! They felt as though the heart of that park was going to be ripped out! (It was.) This “logical” plan was a violation! It was as if people were saying, ‘The Park and its lakes are sacred!’ So the city kept the lakes. It was willing to pay the (likely unnecessary) price because of the value we put into the park as it is.
The NRE has easily saved us millions of dollars. Now it is asking for some assistance so that it can not only survive but develop into what could be called the ‘Nanaimo Waste Recovery Centre,’ generating more jobs and saving us even more money. Without the NRE/NWRC our enthusiasm for recycling will be trashed. Our mascot will be dead. Targets will be missed. We may begin to again hear about the necessity of a (very expensive) incinerator.
Without the NRE more garbage will likely illegally be dumped by road-sides and contaminating the yellow recycling bags. What are the costs of these consequences? What is the cost of not expanding opportunities for new businesses that could utilise the recovered resources? What is the cost of ending the employee training program run by the NRE?
If the city and the RDN truly want to take us to a “zero waste” future, one without landfills or incinerators, while failing to invest in the centre-piece of our region’s efforts to reduce waste, then they are fooling themselves.
But not us.