Recycling program to change under Dryden’s control

With word Tuesday that the Northwest Ontario Recycle Association is disbanding at the end of June, the City of Dryden is buying up NORA’s assets.
But it now may only serve four areas—and for a greater price tag.
“We have to recycle, we have a plant here, so this is a matter of seeing if we can make it work,” Brad Johns, director of engineering and public works for the City of Dryden, said Tuesday afternoon.
But in order to “operate as efficiently as possible,” the new recycling program only is aiming to service Dryden, Fort Frances, Sioux Lookout, and Atikokan—if these municipalities agree to get on board.
“We also know Red Lake and Ear Falls are interested, but we want to be sure everything’s going smoothly before we get them involved,” noted Johns.
He added Kenora would have been considered, too, but that city has since made it clear it is pursuing its own recycling program.
Johns also said the actual unit cost of processing will depend in part on volume. Dryden has estimated it to be $225 per tonne of accepted recyclables.
This cost of processing will be the same for all communities served.
In addition, the cost of collection will be different for each community—based on distance from the plant in Dryden.
For example, the estimated annual cost of collection and transportation to the plant for the Township of Atikokan is $31,227.
But when broken down, this could mean a levy of about $22/per capita—$5 more than what municipalities across the Kenora and Rainy River districts have been paying since a levy hike from $10 in January.
“If they take into consideration the limited life of a landfill site, I don’t think they’re going to find it any cheaper. And we have to recycle,” Johns remarked.
The Dryden-based service, which would be fully operational by early July, would be provided on a contract basis, the conditions of which include:
•full cost recovery for each community;
•a five-year commitment;
•prorated sharing of revenue based on material delivered;
•agreement on what material will be accepted;
•promotion being the responsibility of each community; and
•a local contact in each community for inquiries.
But as to whom among the three municipalities besides Dryden will participate remains a question to be answered by the end of the month.
“They haven’t really come in with an ironclad proposal,” Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said. “We’ve also been looking into our own options, perhaps going with a company from the U.S.”
He added the topic still has to be discussed by town council, but that the next month or so should prove to be “interesting.”
“I guess it’s up to the municipalities what they want to do,” said NORA chair Dennis Brown, who also is mayor of Atikokan.
“As for Atikokan, we’ve been talking to ReCool of Thunder Bay and they’re interested in working with us,” he noted. “But we’re also talking about trying to do something ourselves.”
While supportive of Dryden’s move, Mayor Brown said he’s sad to see NORA collapse.
“What is really lost here is the co-operative aspect. Under NORA, the net cost of recycling was shared among all the municipalities on the basis of population,” he noted.
“In effect, those municipalities close to the plant, primarily Dryden, were those far from the plant, the logic being that nobody should benefit from the accident of geography that is the plant location, and we all gain by economics of scale,” he added.
“Under the proposed scheme, each municipality will pay for its own actual cost, and it seems likely that some of the smaller, more remote communities will not be able to afford to continue a full recycle program.”
In the aftermath of NORA’s dissolution, the 17 member communities will first be assessed, then receive a portion of NORA’s assets according to how much they’ve paid over the years (i.e. larger communities will receive a greater share). These shares possibly could be put up against any outstanding portion of debt to NORA.
Mayor Brown said he considers NORA as “the most outstanding example of inter-municipal co-operation in the history of Northwestern Ontario,” noting it has been regarded as a model program by the province and industry agencies involved in recycling in Ontario.
Mayor John W. McDonald of Sioux Lookout couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.
Mayor Brown said the NORA board decided to disband as of June 30 at its April 24 meeting after it decided “the future just wasn’t there for NORA.”
NORA has been fighting an uphill struggle to keep operating since before Mayor Brown became chair in 1998.
“As to what went wrong, there’s basically three things. First of all, the market prices have dropped dramatically since 1997. We weren’t making a profit,” he noted.
“Second, municipalities like Atikokan, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, and Dryden implemented the ‘bag tag’ system, and that resulted in a greater demand on the recycling system.
“Finally, the Waste Diversion Ontario funding didn’t come through. I believe it still will come, but not in time for NORA,” he added, referring to the Waste Diversion Act—legislation which could mean $150,000-$300,000 or more to help NORA get out of debt.
 “I thought it was going to happen in 2001,” said Mayor Brown. “Things might have been different if it had.”
Dryden took over running the recycling operation on an interim basis for six months in January as NORA tried to find a company to handle its pick-up and recycling duties in the long-term.
At that time, the city’s management became responsible for the operation of the recycling processing plant, and the collection and marketing of recyclables.
Since then, NORA found no companies had responded to a request for proposal it had put out.
Area municipalities served by NORA will see their contracts expire at the end of June, with most of the 17 already having served notice of their intent to drop out of NORA this summer.