Residents in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District are doing a good job of keeping hazardous materials separate from recyclables, but the same can’t be said elsewhere in the province.
B.C.’s major recycling collectors and processors have seen seven fires this year, with several of them having endangered lives and forced the temporary closure of facilities says Recycle BC, the organization responsible for residential packaging and paper product recycling in the province.
It’s not just propane canisters and batteries that pose a recycling danger. Find a list of hazardous material on our website and learn how you can prevent #recycling explosions and fires: https://t.co/o8akKiFmW8 #RecycleSafe #RecycleBC
— Recycle BC (@RecycleBC) August 6, 2019
David Lefebvre, Recycle BC director of public affairs, says most incidents involving fires are caused by residents including hazardous materials, such as lithium-ion batteries and propane or butane canisters, with their recycling.
“Hazardous materials present a very real danger for workers in B.C.’s recycling industry…,” said Lefebvre.
“Earlier this month, a resident put 58 rounds of live ammunition into their recycling. We need people to think before they put something that is potentially explosive and deadly into a recycling bin.”
Recycle BC audits of materials in 2019 found two-thirds of container loads had hazardous materials present, a 47 per cent increase over the last five years. Hazardous materials include:
• Butane and propane canisters;
• Batteries (especially lithium-ion
• Compressed gases;
• Bear spray.
In 2018, a discarded can of bear spray wound up temporarily closing the CSRD’s Skimikin transfer station. For 2019, however, Ben Van Nostrand, CSRD team leader for environmental health, said there’s nothing specifically mentioned in Recycle BC’s audit of Bill’s Bottle Depot, “and that’s a good thing.”
“I think the story can be just a reminder that those disposable materials like butane, propane cylinders or batteries, cell phones, lighter fluids, lighters, those types of things can cause big problems at the processing facility,” said Van Nostrand. “The more we can keep them out – and we have programs to keep them out – that’s beneficial to the overall sort of recycling picture.
“In 2019 we don’t see those types of materials in our recycling.”
For those who are unsure which materials are acceptable for recycling and which are not, Van Nostrand advises looking at the Recycle BC website.
“It is just a really good resource for what program material is accepted… and also what happens to your recycling, where it goes…,” said Van Nostrand. “There’s a lot of negativity around recycling throughout North America it seems, just in terms of stuff going to China or not going to China, and the Recycle BC program is sort of a leader in processing that stuff local. It’s a different story and I think and important one to tell.”