Recycling not working when it comes to used oil

  • Sep. 26, 2007 9:00 a.m.

By Charlotte Tarver-Used oil, oil products and oil containers are not being taken off the islands to recycling centres, despite the fact there is money from the province available to collect and transport the material. “Contrary to what I’ve been told, no used oil has been returned and possibly 100 percent is going to the landfill,” said councillor Greg Martin at the Queen Charlotte council meeting on Sept. 17. “The problem is worse than I thought.” A report by the BC Used Oil Management Association to the BC government states that over 750,000 litres of oil were used on the islands in 2006 and 400,000 litres of used oil were not returned for recycling. According to the regional district’s Port Clements landfill operator, Leonard Thomas, people can take their used oil to the landfill and leave it there. The oil is stored in drums and is supposed to be transported off-island when the drums are full. “There is only one full drum here right now… it’s been here more than a year,” he said. “When I’m burying the garbage… I see a lot oil jugs and oiled rags in the landfill,” said Mr. Thomas. “We are set up here for used oil but people aren’t using it… I guess it’s just easier for people to put it in the garbage.” The landfill also takes used oil filters, oiled rags and other oil products as well as used oil containers. The used oil products are stored in a specially built environmentally safe warehouse. “We take oil filters, five gallon pails, used oil rags,” said Mr. Thomas. “We have a warehouse where this material is just sitting and it has been here over a year.” Currently Masset and Port Clements have used oil collection facilities but the south end of the islands does not. Local greenhouse growers are taking some of used oil from collection sites to burn in their heaters. BC Hydro, the largest single oil user on the islands, does not return its used oil but is using it in their shop heaters. This year, Ron Drieger of BCUMOA conducted an exhaustive but unsuccessful search to find someone willing to provide a used oil collection facility at the south end of the islands. “I am perplexed… on the north end and at Port Clements we have cooperation,” he said. “We offered a dramatic rate increase for collection of used oil materials such as $5.40 per kilogram for used oil containers, compared to $1.19 per kilogram in Vancouver… and no one has come forward from the south end.” Eco-fees charged to consumers are collected by BCUOMA to pay for collection facilities and transportation to off-island recycling centres but little of this money has been received, according to Mr. Martin. “It’s not clear to me but the allegation is all the fees goes to the carrier and not to the collectors,” he said. Elsewhere in BC, the major distributors of oil, like Imperial Oil and Esso, provide the collection facility and are responsible for transporting the used oil materials to recycling centres. “They even take the do-it-yourselfers used oil and oil products from small dealers,” said Mr. Drieger. To address the issues surrounding garbage and recycling programs on the islands, the regional district has hired Laurie Gallant of Footprint Environmental Strategies to review the local waste management system. “I’m not going to be able to do everything at this time… the whole system is undergoing a review,” said Ms Gallant, “In the next year we will see some solutions.” Her report is expected in January 2008.