- Fraser Valley Current
- After years of complaints, glass recycling may be coming to Abbotsford
After years of complaints, glass recycling may be coming to Abbotsford
City may follow neighbours, if price is right
If you think about recycling your glass jars, you probably live in Abbotsford.
If you’re in Chilliwack, Mission, or Langley, there’s not much thought that goes into your average empty spaghetti sauce jar. You rinse it out, put it in a box, and stick that box on the side of the road every couple of weeks. But if you live in Abbotsford, you have to drive the glass to a recycling depot. Or you just grit your teeth and throw the glass away.
For years, when Abbotsford residents complained that their recycle trucks didn’t pick up glass, the city shrugged and declared it impossible and too expensive for such a large, sprawling municipality with a single-stream recycling system.
Tossing all recycling into the same bag, including breakable glass, is a recipe for disaster—or, as they call it in the recycling world: contamination. In the past, Abbotsford would say that risk made glass recycling fiscally impossible—pointing to the fact that neighbouring Chilliwack also didn’t pick up residents’ glass.
But Chilliwack now does—and has for years. So do Mission and Langley Township. Among the valley’s large municipalities, only Abbotsford requires residents to store up their glass then drive it to a depot.
Half a decade ago, the councils and municipal staff in both Chilliwack and Abbotsford considered whether they would provide curbside glass pickup for residents.
In both communities, the lack of glass pickup had been one of the most common complaints among residents. Chilliwack staff noted that the matter wasn’t just one of convenience.
In 2018, at the request of Chilliwack’s council, that municipality’s staff put together a report that found an array of knock-on impacts. They said that a recent audit had found that recyclable glass made up 1.5% of all trash that ends up at the landfill. It also made up about 3% of all material in curbside recycle bags, despite being banned in such bags. That curbside glass threatened to pass a threshold set by Recycle BC, the provincial organization tasked with overseeing recycle programs and materials.
Chilliwack’s glass recycling program started up in 2019. As with most issues, the decision involved weighing the costs against the benefits. But in Abbotsford, the city has spent five years not making a decision.
A five-year wait
In Abbotsford, the lack of glass recycling pickup stung in part because it wasn’t always that way. Abbotsford used to pick up glass from residents, but stopped when it joined the provincial Recycle BC program in 2017.
Two years later, though, it seemed like Abbotsford was seeking a route back to curbside glass pickup.
A consultant’s report that year examined the potential of adding glass collection and suggested a potential cost—$317,000 for about 26,000 households—that could be financed out of existing user fees, since other changes were expected to bring savings. The big news, at the time, was that Abbotsford would be transitioning to automated cart-based curbside collection. But the city also promised to get more detailed information on the costs of both glass pickup and large items like furniture. Staff would report back the following year, the city promised.
A story written by this reporter at the time noted that “the city will issue a request for proposals for both services, and final approval of each will likely depend on the costs and impact to user fees.”
A year later, Abbotsford introduced its new three-stream (recycling, compostables and garbage) automated waste collection program, but punted the glass jar down the road.
In announcing the program in November of 2020, a city press release noted: “The City is still looking at available options for glass and large item collection. If these additional services are able to be offered to residents, further information will be provided in 2021.”
Further information was not provided in 2021. Further information was also not provided in 2021, 2022, or 2023. (The city said it was focused on transitioning to its new waste-collection model, then on responding to the 2021 flood, then on reducing waste contamination). But 2024, finally, might be another matter.
A $2 (or $25) decision
Later this year, five years after the idea was first suggested, Abbotsford council will get its chance to follow Chilliwack.
A city spokesperson wrote that council will finally get a chance to decide whether to OK curbside glass and large-item collection. Preliminary costs aren’t being shared, the city says, so as to not influence a potential bidding process among companies.
But we do have an idea of the potential cost.
In 2019, Chilliwack was told it would cost each household $25 a year, or $2 a month, to have curbside glass collection. Council declared that the cost was worth it and gave the go-ahead.
Since then, glass has been picked up on curbs around town. Once collected, it then gets trucked either to Quesnel to be made into “sandblast materials” or, ironically, to Abbotsford to be used to manufacture new bottles
Today, the cost is a little higher at $2.20/month, a city spokesperson told The Current. Since glass is picked up every two weeks, the cost amounts to a little more than a loonie each time a truck shows up and carts away a family’s accumulated jars.
Whether that’s worth the cost of convenient glass pick-up—and not hearing from annoyed recyclers—will be up to Abbotsford’s politicians.