End to the Oak Bay Tea Party recycling debacle

District hopes to rebuild relationship with green committee

Oak Bay staff is working hard to rebuild bridges with the green committee in the wake of allegations that much of the recycling collected during the Oak Bay Tea Party ended up in the landfill, said Mayor Nils Jensen regarding the post-event recycling debacle.

Terri Hunter, co-chair of the Oak Bay green committee, contacted the News earlier in the week and claimed that much of the recycling she and the committee had collected at the Tea Party was thrown in the garbage by Oak Bay staff.

At the time, Jensen confirmed that some recycling had made its way into the trash, though he could not determine why or how much. Staff and committee members met to discuss the incident after the News’ deadline on June 10.

“The meeting between staff and members of the green committee was productive and discussed how to avoid mistakes in the future,” Jensen said.

“It’s unfortunate that such unfounded allegations were made, but our staff is working very hard to rebuild the bridges with the green committee. … At the end of the day we’re talking about a handful of recyclables that got into the wrong stream by mistake,” he added.

In an email to the News, Phil Barnett, superintendent of public works detailed the turn of events from the staff perspective.

Some of the recycling, he explained, had been left behind temporarily in totes on the beach and were not thrown away, and some plastics had mixed with organics when a bag broke on the truck. Those were separated again, and were also saved from the landfill, he explained.

“At issue is what happened to two bags of plastic and approximately five to six bags of corn cobs that the volunteers say was collected,” wrote Barnett.

“I don’t have the answer, but it is possible they may have ended up in the garbage. If they did, it was a mistake, and not done with malice. We have learned from this year and will improve the system for next year.”

Hunter, who remains upset about the incident, believes that some amount of recycling collected was lost, said the more salient issue is to move forward and get the public on board with a zero-waste philosophy, especially in light of the kitchen scraps program to be launched in 2014.

“We need to have a system in place so that we all work well together,” Hunter said. “The end product is always that we want people to recycle.”