Chris Bird displays the proper way to recycle a ziplock bag by removing the zip portion.

Tofino and Ucluelet could lose recycling depots

“These small depots cannot collect enough ever to pay for themselves based on their production volume,” John Bird said.

  • May. 2, 2016 2:00 p.m.


Your friendly neighbourhood garbage man, Chris Bird, finds himself in a rather unfriendly predicament.

Only a couple short years after opening the Tofino and Ucluelet recycling depots in October 2014, he might have no choice but to close them down.

“Right now, we’re in a position where the two depots we have do not collect anywhere near enough material to pay for the labour just to run it,” said Chris Bird, who established SonBird Refuse and Recycling over 20 years ago with his brother John Bird.

“We do want to do it. It’s not for religious fervour in anyway, it just makes sense to divert the stuff from the landfill, but I can’t fund the West Coast.”

John, who manages the books for SonBird, reported to the Westerly News that during the first 16-months of operation, the Tofino and Ucluelet recycling depots garnered a combined total of 50 tonnes of mixed recyclables, which in turn produced $3,700 of revenue.

“As you can see, we would have to be open only one-hour a week to break even. It’s really ugly,” he said.

“These small depots cannot collect enough ever to pay for themselves based on their production volume. It’s absolutely impossible, and I’m an accountant. It can’t be done.”

In the upcoming weeks, the SonBird brothers hope to work out a new arrangement with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District that would include funding the wages of recycling depot employees.

“We’ve got a structural problem here. And it’s not ours,” John said. “We’ve done the work and we’ve revealed the problem. Bottom line is, if they don’t want the depots open for this kind of economic cost, then we’ll have to close them down. We can’t continue to subsidize them like we are.”

Chris explained the commodity markets for recycling have tanked in recent years, largely as a result of China’s industrial independence.

“China was one of the biggest importers of steel. They are now kind of self-sufficient. They have enough of their own scrap. So the price of steel went down so far we have to pay to get rid of it now,” he said. “That’s why I’m charging $10 for appliances now. And, even with the signs up people come in and drop it off and don’t even tell me.”

Another big area of contention at the SonBird recycling depots is the amount of contaminated product they receive.

“The residents can do us an absolute solid favour by keeping the contamination out of it. And that’s just not dirty product, that is no glass, no soft plastic, and no foam at curbside pick-up,” Chris said.

John reiterated that keeping the product clean is the absolute best thing people can do to help.

“It knocks the price down and saves on labour,” he said.

West Coasters can find more information about residential recycling at


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