YCC investigates waste and wants

Waste not, want not, or so the old saying goes. In other words, if you use a resource sparingly, you won’t find yourself in need. A similar sentiment can be applied to the world of waste management, where, when one produces less waste overall, one wants for less too: less new materials and products, less space needed at the landfill, less garbage produced per year, and less cost to taxpayers.

Canadians produce approximately 35.6 million tonnes1 of garbage a year. That’s a number left wanting. But there’s good news too: while solid waste generated in Canada has increased2, the amount of waste diverted from landfills has also gone up. So we’re producing more garbage overall, but also syphoning more from the point of no return.

Construction, demolition and renovation (CDR) waste represents 12 per cent 3 of all the solid waste generated in Canada each year. Many municipalities are now developing programs to encourage recycling and reusing of CDR waste.

Wildsight’s Beyond Recycling program takes field trips to help students understand local waste issues. This class from Creston visited the RDCK’s Ooteschenia landfill.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) manages waste for approximately 60,000 residents. A significant volume4 of that waste comes from construction, demolition and renovation.

Todd Johnston, an environmental coordinator with the RDCK, explains some of the measures in place to help divert CDR materials from the landfill, such as a tiered pricing structure, with lower tipping fees for pre-sorted materials.

“There is a significant cost difference for disposing of clean, source-separated materials, versus when a customer wants to bring all of the demo waste in one bin. The challenge is always meeting job timelines — often a bigger priority for contractors, even when it costs more,” says Todd. “As an organization, we need to find the right combination of pricing incentives and policies to not only encourage CDR source separation, but to make it the new normal. There is so much to be gained in both recovering the value of the materials and saving space in our landfills.”

If a resident or contractor is unsure how to plan their project to get the best pricing, they are encouraged to phone the RDCK for more information.

“Bylaws are generally large and complex, so sometimes it’s just easier to call us about CDR disposals, so we can help you get the best value,” says Todd. “For example, if you take clean drywall separately (and it’s clear of asbestos), it is almost $100/tonne cheaper than the construction, demolition, and renovation tipping fee, which is applied when all the materials are mixed together. This is designed to encourage source separation.”

While CDR management is just one piece in a much larger waste management puzzle, any waste reduction is good for the taxpayer, the community, and the environment. Staff continue to explore alternative measures for reducing CDR wastes, and are looking to engage with the CDR sector for more input.

The RDCK is also conducting a waste composition study this summer to determine the percentage of various materials by weight disposed of for landfilling. This study will help inform future diversion initiatives.

The YCC connection

Daniela Sirois

Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps (YCC) invites young adults to explore, engage, and experience climate action directly in local communities. This season, our West Kootenay crew partnered with the RDCK (alongside our existing partnership with the City of Nelson) to help amplify the great climate action underway locally. Our West Kootenay team visited communities to share ways to save money and take advantage of RDCK programs, all while lessening impacts on the environment.

As part of the season’s work, each crew member also got to dive deep into an investigative project of their choosing. Daniela Sirois chose to explore CDR waste management. She spent time studying the issue and met with industry professionals, experts, and RDCK staff to understand the issues and brainstorm solutions.

“Most are keen about the topic, and want to make a difference,” says Daniela. “People aren’t sure how they can make it work, but are interested and want to find solutions.”

She came up with several proposals that could help reduce CDR waste, such as providing demolition companies with a comprehensive list of local businesses that could sell or reuse items, or set the RDCK up to collect all the materials then resell them to residents at a low cost. Another is to create a user pay system in which local transfer stations could accept all types of non-hazardous construction waste and then residents could sort materials to repurpose themselves.

This project showed Daniela the challenges of creating a sustainable model that works for everyone and is achievable in an area like the West Kootenay.

“This research has opened my eyes to how complex it all is, and also how hard it is for the regional district to be able to do it all,” she shares. “We want to mitigate as much waste as possible and be as sustainable as we can. But it’s also hard for people working in the industry to be able to make it cost effective.”

There is always more that can be done, and the RDCK is committed to, wherever possible, diverting waste from landfills.

“I don’t know if absolute ‘Zero Waste’ is actually possible, but regardless, striving for that goal is the path or responsible waste management, finding more and more alternative end uses, reuse, upcycling and recycling alternatives to landfilling,” Todd says.

Residents are invited to call the RDCK with any questions related to waste management, and how we can all play a role in overall waste reductions in the region. To learn more, visit: http://rdck.bc.ca/resourcerecovery.

YCC crew members spent the season sharing opportunities for people to reduce waste, save energy and lower costs thanks to initiatives offered by the RDCK and City of Nelson. Here, Daniela and Deity host a booth at the Nakusp Fringe Fridays market.
  1. www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/solid-waste-diversion-disposal.html
  2. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/solid-waste-diversion-disposal.html
  3. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/municipal-solid/reducing.html
  4. https://www.rdck.ca/assets/Services/Waste~and~Recycling/Documents/FINAL_RRP_12AUG2021.pdf page 43
Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps exists to connect, inspire and empower young adults interested in making a difference for the greatest challenge of this generation: the climate crisis.Learn more