Christmas means packaging and lots of it, but this holiday season, Burnaby residents can take their Styrofoam packaging to the Still Creek recycling depot.
Burnaby council passed a motion at Monday night's meeting approving a one-year Styrofoam recycling pilot project for the city.
Residents will be able to drop off up to three cubic yards of expanded polystyrene, better known by the brand name Styrofoam, as of Dec. 1. The idea was brought forward by the public, according to Coun. Dan Johnston, chair of the city's finance and civic development committee, which provided a report on the issue to council.
"A lot of Styrofoam has been taken to the Still Creek depot just to find we don't accept it, so we want to take that extra step, both because it's the right thing to do and because the public wants it," he said in an interview with the NOW.
The City of Burnaby looked at what other municipalities were doing and searched for a way to ensure the Styrofoam was turned into something useful, according to Johnston.
"One of the delays in this area - Styrofoam - was we wanted to make sure it didn't just get recycled and dumped, that it was recycled into a useful product," he said.
The city plans to transport the Styrofoam to Foam Only, a Coquitlam company that exports it to a company in China, which uses it to make picture frames and crown moulding.
"That to me seemed like a more appropriate use," Johnston said, adding he didn't want to see the city go down the same road as municipalities that collected electronics, which were then shipped overseas and dumped.
"That's not recycling, it's just fooling people" he said.
Johnston hopes the pilot project is successful, he added.
The project is part of the city's participation with Metro Vancouver's commitment to divert 70 per cent of waste by 2015.
Residents will not be charged for the service, but the city is planning to charge businesses $6 per cubic yard, up to six cubic yards, to recover some of the costs, according to a city staff report.
The program is estimated to cost $30,000, with $5,000 coming from the 2012 operating budget and the rest covered via the city's operating contingency or surplus in 2013.
The city will collect any kind of Styrofoam but preferably white Styrofoam, as other kinds can be more difficult to recycle, according to Barry Davis, acting director of engineering.
If the program is a success, it would become a permanent part of the recycling depot, he said. The city will assess any issues that arise, including costs and how much the service is used, at the end of the project, he added.
"If it's well-subscribed, then certainly for a service item, we'd love to continue it," he said.
The city might consider adding it to the city's pick-up service if the pilot is successful, but that would depend on a variety of factors, he added.
"It's so bulky that it's a bit awkward to pick up at curbside," he said. "That doesn't mean we wouldn't be open to it in the future but for now we just want to get through the pilot and see where we're at."
The City of New Westminster began recycling its Styrofoam with Foam Only in March, according to Kristian Davis, supervisor of New Westminster's solid waste and recycling branch.
"I actually got in contact with them about two days before the actual launch of their company," he said.
So far, the program has been a success, he said.
"It seems that the material we're bringing in is really good quality Styrofoam," he said.
Residents have been bringing in clean Styrofoam, from meat trays to appliance packaging, he added.
The volume has steadily increased since the project started in mid-March, and now New Westminster is taking about two loads per week to Foam Only, he said.
Foam Only has been in business about nine months, according to co-owner Noel Massey.
"We're growing very rapidly," he said, adding the company also gets Styrofoam from Whistler, Squamish and Maple Ridge.
"The goal is to make sure that this stays out of the landfill, and that we'll be able to expand this model that we have and prove that it works and put it in spots that are needed," he said.
People should make sure to educate themselves about what is recyclable and where packaging goes, he added.
"Garbage isn't garbage any more. We're sorting everything we can now," he said. "There's stuff in the pile that's still recyclable. Let's be honest, the foam is one of the big ones on the volume part of it."
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