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B.C.'s new container recycling system starts to take shape

Workers sort out contaminants at Emterra Environmental
Workers sort out contaminants at Emterra Environmental's material recovery facility in Surrey. The plant is one of three that will process recyclables collected for Multi-Material BC.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

A new container recycling plant will be built in the Lower Mainland this year as industry stewardship group Multi-Material B.C. takes over responsibility for an expanded blue box recycling program.

MMBC on Thursday named Green By Nature EPR, a firm formed by three recycling industry partners, to handle the processing of packaging and printed paper province-wide.

Cascades Recovery, Emterra Environmental and Merlin Plastics are the three companies that have joined forces to invest $32 million building the new container recycling plant, a new material recovery facility in Nanaimo, as well as other infrastructure.

Green By Nature won't handle the curbside collection of packaging – that will still be done mostly by local municipalities, except for a few locations where new collectors are yet to be named.

Besides new plants, existing operations will also be used.

A material recovery facility in Surrey run by Emterra will help sort materials, and the plastics recovered are expected to be processed at Merlin Plastics' plant in Delta.

A site for the new container plant hasn't yet been revealed.

"The entire system is designed to shift everything into two streams," said MMBC managing director Allen Langdon. "One is for fibres – newspapers, cardboard and printed papers – and the other for containers."

Green By Nature expects to employ 570 workers in all.

The new system – slated to launch May 19 – promises to add 10 new types of containers or other materials to what households can place in blue boxes.

The new categories include milk cartons, foam packaging, plant pots, aluminum foil packages, plastic clamshell containers and drink cups.

Langdon said a public education campaign will launch in late April.

In most communities, glass bottles and jars will be directed to depots, instead of curbside pickup, but Langdon said there are exceptions, as some municipalities have opted to continue segregated glass pickup.

MMBC says it needs to keep glass separate from paper and other recyclables to avoid contamination that slashes the value of materials.

"There will be a much better chance of it being recycled," Langdon said, noting 90 per cent of glass going into blue boxes actually now ends up going to landfills.

MMBC's operations are expected to cost $85 million per year and be fully funded by its member businesses, which include major retailers and consumer product makers.

The stewardship group is targeting a 75 per cent recycling rate, up from 50 per cent province-wide now.

The producer-pay system, mandated by the provincial government, has been controversial. Cities have feared they'll be forced to pay more to maintain service, while businesses worry about paperwork and MMBC-levied fees to recycle the packaging they generate.

Emterra recycling facility in Surrey (2009 Video)

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