The Value of Supporting the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange

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.


  1. The City of Nanaimo existed many years befire th NRE was born. My question is: why is NRE in the same positiin they were a couple years ago when they wanted city funding to build their own building on their own property and went on a fundraising mission to gather a portion of that money needed. Did they raise money and go back to the city or do they still have none?

  2. Good questions, Bill! Indeed, they were in exactly the same place two years ago. The same thing happened. It was booted over to the RDN and the staff then (as now) essentially indicated that the NRE was not needed. The issue got buried. The NRE has managed to scrape together some funds necessary for the build and move, but not nearly enough.

  3. I've not heard of the job training program. Essentially what is it, who benefits? Sounds highly beneficial to our community whatever it is...

    Ian got to talking with Jan Hastings after. She corrected me when I asked about the nearly $2million RDN and Nanaimo receive annually. Recycle BC fund this money and for NRE to receive all of it not likely. She was optimistic NRE could benefit from some of it but my sense from this was dont hold your breathe... I get a strong sense its already earmarked for the garbage trucks and bins. As this was decided incamera an expenditure exceeding $250,000... could NRE legally challenge that expenditure successfully?

    1. As I understand it the job training program assists those who are not employable but who wish to gain the necessary skills so that they can enter the job market. Yes, it is highly beneficial to us all.
      The Recycle BC funds are currently being used to lower the taxes on the solid waste line of our property taxes, something that the staff say has not been noticed by us (they are likely correct). There are no plans to change this. No the NRE cannot challenge that expenditure legally or otherwise. But we can!


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