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Nanaimo has made an important step to becoming a greener, more sustainable city. So, why doesn’t it feel that way?

The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) has partnered with the non-profit group Nanaimo Recycling Exchange to assess the waste produced by local businesses and industries. The evaluations by the non-profit will go towards finishing a new bylaw in the wings for the RDN. The bylaw will impose mandatory waste separation for industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors.

It’s all part of the plan for the RDN, who made a commitment two years ago to increase waste diversion from landfills to 90 percent by 2027. It currently sits between 65 and 68 percent.

This is undoubtedly a move in the right direction for the city—but it seems obvious and long overdue.

RDN director and solid waste committee chairperson Ben Geselbracht said to the Nanaimo News Bulletin that the non-profit’s job will be to provide “baseline data” for what’s being sent to the landfill and what’s being recycled. The RDN can then apply the information to their upcoming bylaw to make it easier for organizations to separate their waste. Geselbracht hopes the bylaw is in place by the end of next year.

Here we sit in 2020, five years after the Paris Agreement and a year removed from historical global climate strikes, and the RDN is only now implementing a strategy just to know what is being sent to landfill by industry and business.

More alarming? The RDN is the first regional district in BC to request the authority to monitor the waste of its biggest waste producers, according to Geselbracht.

Again, the announcement is a good thing on its surface. The RDN board approved a $24,750 contract with the recycling exchange to conduct up to 15 waste assessments. They have also put emphasis on recycling in the past two years with practices like re-purposing mattresses instead of sending them to the landfill, and working with Nanaimo Organic Waste Ltd. in order to process larger amounts of organic waste.

It’s unfortunate, however, that as a society we’ve been so slow to react to climate change brought about by environmental damage. Canada, in particular, has much work to do when it comes to reducing the amount of municipal waste sent to landfills.

The average amount for countries part of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), according to the OECD’s Environment at a Glance 2020 report, is 42 percent. Some OECD countries, like Germany and Sweden, are not sending any waste to landfills. Canada sends over 70 percent. Even that number is confused by waste sent overseas by Canada to be recycled, which isn’t always done.

The upcoming bylaw and contract between the RDN and Nanaimo Recycling Exchange are positive in at least one major way—they increase awareness of where our trash goes and why. Knowing about the problem and admitting to it is always the first step to a lasting solution.

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