The morning following the Oak Bay Tea Party, the co-chair of the green committee received an email from a Victoria MP, curious if the group had reached its goal of diverting 50 per cent of the waste generated by the event.
Days later, Terri Hunter still couldn’t bring herself to respond to that message from Murray Rankin, after she learned that much of the recycling collected and sorted by volunteers at the Oak Bay Tea Party somehow wound up in the municipal garbage.
Hunter spent weeks co-ordinating volunteers – who during the Tea Party, spent 22 hours, collecting and sorting recycling – and was ready to hear the final tally on how much recyclable material was saved from the landfill on Monday morning (June 3). Instead, she received a call from distraught committee member Noreen Taylor, who was told by employees at the public works yard that the bags of recycling she was planning to count, had already been thrown away, Hunter said.
“It’s a huge, huge effort to prepare and a huge effort on behalf of all of the people who turn out to recycle and feel they’re doing something for their community,” Hunter said. “It makes the public feel good, it makes us feel good and everyone thinks that something was done. … and it turns out, it went in the garbage.”
Some previously sorted compostables, which had been mixed with plastic cutlery, according to Hunter, had not yet been disposed of, along with some hard plastic containers to be returned for refund.
Mayor Nils Jensen, who himself took a shift collecting recyclables at the Tea Party, confirmed the recycling had made its way to the garbage, through he was not able to confirm any further details. Oak Bay’s chief administrative officer Gary Nason is investigating the incident. Nason met with public works staff and members of the green committee on Monday afternoon past the News’ deadline to discuss the incident.
“It should not have happened and we’re going to put measures in places so that it doesn’t happen in the future,” said Jensen, refuting Hunter’s claim that the incident shows a failure of leadership and management within the municipality. “What happened here was an unfortunate error. I don’t think this is a systemic problem. It’s a one-off problem that we will fix next year.”
Hunter been in contact with Jensen and requested a formal apology from the municipality. Last year the green committee diverted 33 per cent of the waste at the Tea Party.