Buying time for landfills

New program gives consumers options for disposal of small appliances

It's common knowledge - landfills are not bottomless pits.

They have capacity and with time they fill up. When they do, cities and citizens are faced with questions with no easy answers. What do we do with our garbage?

Kamloops, too, has concerns about garbage. Our landfill is not under as much pressure as others across B.C., but the day will come when it is full and can accept no more.

The Mission Flats landfill has an expected life of about 35 more years and while that seems a long time, the days pass relentlessly. Soon enough, we will face the reality that we have nowhere to haul our garbage.

There are things we can do. One of the biggest, of course, is to reduce the amount of garbage we haul to the landfill. Recycling programs are an effective way to keep things out of the dump.

B.C. unveiled its latest recycling program last week. It will go into service Oct. 1 and give consumers options for the disposal of small appliances, items such as blenders, microwaves, toasters, vacuums and mixers.

"Unplugged," as the program is called, is expected to divert more than two million small appliances a year from B.C. landfills.

Three depots will accept appliances in Kamloops. One will be set up at the landfill itself, kind of a last-minute diversion effort.

Introduced by the Canadian Electrical Stewardship Association, Unplugged is the first small appliance recycling program of its kind in Canada and the only government-approved small appliance recycling program in B.C.

The program will accept more than 120 different kinds of appliances, from toasters and electric toothbrushes to countertop microwaves and vacuum cleaners.

Unplugged will also save energy by recycling materials such as aluminum. It takes 95 per cent less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to make it from raw materials.

"We are proud to see that the small appliance industry has developed a program to help British Columbians recycle their products and keep them out of the landfill," says Kamloops-North Thompson MLA and Environment Minister Terry Lake.

"Unplugged will add to an already impressive list of 12 other product stewardship programs currently operating in the province for everything from beverage containers and tires, to electronics and batteries. These programs have helped put B.C. on the map as an environmental leader and we are happy to continue this tradition."

After an appliance is brought to a drop-off location, it is transported to processors in Western Canada and separated into different materials, which are then recycled. Metals will be melted down and recycled into other products, while plastics and glass will be sorted and sold or reused in other manufacturing processes.

Shafiq Jamal, Western Canada's vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada, told The Daily News he expects consumers will buy into the voluntary program in a big way, noting B.C. residents are known for their willingness to take on environmentally beneficial initiatives.

The program will be financed by consumers through fees on the purchase of new appliances. Those fees will range from 75 cents added to the purchase of a new clock to $10 added to the price of a microwave oven. The money will be diverted to a not-for-profit society, which will oversee the administration of the program.

Consumers will not be charged fees when they drop off appliances for disposal, but neither will they get back the money they paid on the purchase of a new product. This is not a deposit program, like the bottle recycling program in B.C.

"The fees collected are used completely for the responsible recycling of the products," he said. "It is really exciting to have Unplugged launched."

Jen Fretz, environmental manager for the City of Kamloops, said it's not clear what proportion of the garbage stream is made up of small appliances, although the city has engaged a consultant to look at the composition of waste in the City's landfill.

A consultant went through garbage to see what's in it, she said. Once the report is complete, the City will know better how many small appliances are dumped.

That said, any program that reduces garbage going in the landfill by any amount is a positive benefit, said Fretz.

"We have 35 years of life in our landfill. That sounds like a long time . . . but then what? We're not in a crunch at this point of time, but we don't have forever.

"Anything to extend the life of our landfill is a bonus," she said, adding no recycling program is too small. "Anything we can do is a bonus."

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