Cowichan Valley springs into action by recycling couches, easy chairs

First they went for the mattresses and now the Cowichan Valley Regional District has a proposal to take an estimated 1,800 couches and easy chairs out of its garbage each year.

The Vancouver Island region, which includes the municipalities of North Cowichan, Lake Cowichan, Duncan and Ladysmith, is looking for a private contractor to recycle couches, after a similar program was launched just over a year ago that has since recycled 2,500 mattresses.

“They go to a contractor who pulls it apart to recycle some wood, some metal and some foam,” CVRD chairman John Lefebure said Tuesday. “The foam goes into carpet underlays.”

Lefebure, also the mayor of North Cowichan, said getting the bulky items out of the garbage was a big deal for the regional district, which ships its non-recyclable garbage by truck, barge and rail to a private landfill in Washington state.

A September 2014 district report said Cowichan Valley spends $2.1 million a year to ship 21,000 tonnes of garbage each year to the Rabanco Roosevelt Landfill in the dry interior of Washington state.

“For both environmental and cost reasons we look at everything that comes in our waste to reduce it,” Lefebure said, adding that the dropping Canadian dollar will push that cost higher.

“When you get those bulky mattresses and couches they stick out, they’re pretty obvious to you.”

The district this month put out a call for proposals on the couch-recycling with a submission deadline of Feb. 22, and Lefebure said they hope to have a contract with a recycler soon after that.

Residents will be able to take their couches to a transfer station, and the district will truck them to the recycler.

The district has been shipping its garbage to the U.S. since 2007. Cowichan Valley closed a landfill in 1998 and ruled out the establishment of a new landfill site. The garbage was first shipped to a landfill in Cache Creek, then to the Washington state landfill.

“The Rabanco site has only a couple of inches of rainfall a year,” Lefebure said. “Here we have 30 times as much rainfall, it’s much more difficult to operate a landfill successfully.”

Lefebure said talks are going on with other Vancouver Island jurisdictions to find some common solution, adding that Nanaimo and Victoria, among others, are using landfills that are near the end of their working lives.

“It’s been a fairly long-term discussion and there’s no clear options yet,” he said.

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