Throughout the year, we will be using this space to feature some of our more than 160 collectors who are part of the Multi-Material BC (MMBC) program, providing on-the-ground recycling services to the residents of BC.
Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking to Kat Slorstad, Manager of the Nak’azdli Recycling Program.
The Nak’azdli Band is one of 11 First Nations communities operating recycling services under the MMBC program, and – like all communities in the program – they receive a financial incentive from MMBC to cover or help offset the cost. Nak’azdli provides curbside service to close to 1,000 households on the reserve and in the District of Fort St. James, and also operates two depots – one that is part of the MMBC program, and one that is not.
What does your typical day look like?
Curbside pick-up is on a bi-weekly schedule, so on those days we are the recycling collector and it takes us about half a day to get to all of the participating households: about 200 total. This might not sound like much to larger communities, but this is almost a 600% increase in recycling participation compared to the period immediately prior to MMBC’s launch in 2014. When we are not doing curbside collection, our time is split between managing depot operations, and conducting community outreach and recycling promotion and education.
How big is your team?
There are three of us that keep the program running successfully. My sister, Shara, and I run the depot and curbside operations, as well as office administration, marketing and community outreach. Our third team member comes to us from the Nak’azdli Employment & Training Services program; this individual is our right hand at the depot, helping residents with sorting and answering all their recycling questions. Personally, I work three days per week at the MMBC Nak’azdli depot, and the other two days per week I run another company that collects recycling from commercial and rural residential customers not covered by the MMBC program. Shara works part time at the depot to cover the days I can’t be there, and on curbside collection days.
When the program launched, Na’kazdli was embarking on a new partnership with the District of Fort St. James. How was that relationship evolved?
It has been awesome. Fort St James partners with us on education and communication efforts. The partnership has been really successful, I think, for both parties.
You are getting close to your two year anniversary since launch. How do Na’kazdli and Fort St. James residents feel about their recycling service?
People are excited. We have grown curbside recycling from 30 to about 200 households over the past 19 months of operations, and many more people are using the depot which is conveniently located en-route to the transfer station. Every day new people come to our depot and they are really interested in learning about what can and cannot be recycled, and how to sort. One of the markers of our program’s success is the volume of recycling. When we first launched we were sending away one roll off bin every six weeks, and now Cascades Recovery (part of MMBC’s post-collection network run by Green by Nature) picks two to three rolls off bins per week.
Tell me about the biggest successes related to launching recycling in Na’kazdli and the District of Fort St. James?
We have a good sorting system, which makes it easy for residents and keeps our contamination low; we are steadily increasing both the volume of recyclables shipped out and the number of households recycling in Fort St James and Na’kazdli; and we have successfully implemented other extended producer responsibility stewardship programs at our MMBC depot, which has opened up more recycling options in the area.
What challenges have you faced?
Three things come to mind. First, we found there to be a steep learning curve related to learning about accepted vs not accepted materials, and being able to explain the reasons to our customers. Now, we know so much more, residents are adapting to the changes, and we also feel very supported by the MMBC team, so it is not as much of an issue as it was when we first started and everything was new to us.
Second, our infrastructure is struggling. Our building was never completed and current program needs don’t meet the original design; but we are running the best program we can with a half-finished depot. Also, we use a basic pick-up truck for curbside service. This is working okay for existing volumes, but as volumes increase we expect we will need to invest in a proper recycling truck.
Third, funding has been a challenge. MMBC provides a financial incentive to cover operations, which makes all of this possible, but as a start-up business we have had to find other funding for infrastructure costs. Established recycling businesses would not face this same challenge.
Don’t underestimate the importance of promotion and education! Even with all our efforts – presentations, brochure drops, signage, a blog and Facebook page, and more – behaviour change has been difficult. We have found that we get the most interest and participation from people that are new to our communities and expect recycling service because they had it wherever they are re-locating from. They search out the information. Also, seniors are very interested in learning about the program. Long-time residents and youth are a little harder, but they are coming around. There is a domino effect. When one person on a block sets up recycling, their neighbours start to recycle too. So if we can get just one person on each street to take the lead, we think we will see huge increases in recycling rates.
How would you describe your partnership with MMBC?
It has been very positive. When we encounter an issue or have a question, the team works with us to resolve. We are also very appreciative of MMBC’s field services representative, Brendan, and our post-collection partner, Cascades Recovery.
Thank you Kat for sharing your story! Stay tuned for more collector profiles in 2016.