To say our “blue box” recycling program is in deep trouble may be the understatement of 2002—and the year is barely two weeks old.
Kenora was the first to serve notice it intended to leave the Northwest Ontario Recycle Association when its current contract expires in June. And area municipalities have been following suit in droves—with Rainy River jumping on the wagon earlier this week, and Emo and Alberton doing so last week.
Here in Fort Frances, council discussed the issue at Monday night’s meeting but stopped short of voting to pull out.
There’s no question NORA is in big trouble. And the way things have been going lately, not the least of which was that 70 percent jump in per capita fees effective Jan. 1, you can’t blame municipalities for wanting to bail.
On the other hand, one has to wonder if this is a knee-jerk reaction without much thinking ahead of how to replace the current recycling program. NORA has acknowledged its problems, and seems willing to resolve them. As Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach noted Monday night, the board shortly will be reviewing a draft Request for Proposals for a company to take over its recycling service.
Debt load and the cost of refurbishing NORA’s plant in Dryden aside, as well as the ridiculous decision to shut down for two weeks over Christmas and the fact provincial funding hasn’t come through as expected, the simple problem is the “blue box” trucks keep breaking down—precisely because they’re not designed for highway driving back and forth to Dryden in the best of conditions (not to mention in the dead of winter).
Any solution, including if Fort Frances eventually opts to go it alone, will have to involve collecting the recyclables locally, storing them somewhere, and then hiring transport trucks to haul it to the nearest plant.
It’s also a safe bet any solution will involve residents having to sort their own recyclables beforehand, which, in turn, makes them worth more.
There’s no question local residents want to recycle. It’s also clear recycling is here to stay (in fact, Fort Frances, with a population of more than 5,000, is required by law to have a recycle program in place).
The challenge is how to do it cost-effectively, and that will mean working together. Abandoning ship is a problem, not a solution.