An employee stops to talk to his supervisor at Cascades Recovery in Rock Bay.                                Travis Paterson/News Staff

An employee stops to talk to his supervisor at Cascades Recovery in Rock Bay. Travis Paterson/News Staff

From chip bags to dirty jars, touring Greater Victoria’s recycling processing plant

Cascades Recovery in Rock Bay processes about 66,000 kilograms of materials per day

Greater Victoria’s recycling plant processes an average of about 66,000 kilograms of materials per day – the weight equivalent to processing 28 Chevy Silverado trucks – in a plant just over 30,000 square-feet.

Accessed off Bridge Street, the Cascades Recovery warehouse and yard in Rock Bay processes a total of 1,980 metric tonnes per month from the Blue Box program with an overall volume of approximately 4,200 metric tonnes per month. That includes the region’s commercial customers (think big box and grocery stores).

Materials are sorted along conveyor belts in massive machines, by workers driving Bobcat machines, and by hand. All this on a lot that’s just about two acres in size. At Cascades, as it is at other recycling plants in B.C., the materials are crushed and packed into bales for shipping. The goods go to China, to India and to the U.S., while much of it stays here in Canada.

And while there are markets that buy post-consumer recyclables as a commodity, recycling is not a for-profit business with costs that far outweigh the revenue, said Lyndsey Chauhan, spokesperson for Recycle BC.

“Generally the end-markets remain relatively consistent, but the markets do change… local and international markets pay for these goods. Our plastics stay in B.C. for recycling. Markets for these goods also fluctuate, just like any other market.”

Revenues for post-consumer goods are important to help off-set costs.

With China cracking down on what it will import as of December of 2017, Recycle BC has had to find new markets.

For now, plastics and glass mostly stay in B.C. Metals, such as aluminum and tin cans, and packaging lids, are largely sold to end-markets in Ontario, with the rest either remaining in B.C. or to the United States, Chauhan said. The majority of paper/fibres, including aseptic/polycoat containers, are sold to end-markets overseas, including China. Again, the rest remains in B.C.

Until December China was among the lead purchasers for recycled paper, until it essentially banned the import of all post-consumer recycled paper, Chauhan added.

Last year, mixed-waste paper was being sold for approximately $80/tonne, this year, it’s down to $0 tonne.

“Not a typo,” Chauhan said.

Realistically, $80 was already a pretty good deal for 1,000 kilograms of paper product. Compare that to the cost of producing 1,000 kgs of new paper products, from logging, to pulp mill, to press.

As for Cascades, the plant is the hub for the CRD’s curbside Blue Box recycling program, where Emterra’s (which is headquartered one block over on John Street) trucks bring in the plastic, paper, glass and plastic.

One of the biggest changes this year was the Blue Box program amending its sorting to have residents separate glass into its own bins. If glass isn’t sorted, Emterra’s pick-up employees can leave the mixed box of plastic and glass at your curb, with a polite note to separate the glass. Even if the glass is sorted, it still needs to be clean with labels removed. Otherwise, it’s considered contaminated when it reaches Cascades, which demands extra time and resources from the 30-or-so employees who work Monday to Friday at the plant.

“Contamination is common,” said Cascades supervisor Rob Cook.

Commercial accounts will have often contamination levels around 20 per cent, which is an extra fee but one they’re often willing to pay, as it costs more time sorting it at Cascades.

The Blue Box program has its share of contamination costs but these are unseen by taxpayers, Chauhan said.

“[Contamination] doesn’t directly cost the tax payers/CRD more money for additional sorting, however it does cost the Recycle BC program money (funded by the businesses that supply paper and packaging to BC consumers).”

CRD Blue Box

CRD’s Blue Box program started in March of 1989 with the pick-up of glass bottles, tin and aluminum cans, and newspapers. It now hits 121,000 homes and collects cardboard and paper packaging in addition to newspapers, containers made of metal and plastic and glass jars in addition to bottles.

Recycle BC was since developed and is now the overseer of Blue Box programs in B.C.

Recycling solutions

Hartland now accepts “flexible plastics” such as chip bags. To recycle soft plastics and Styrofoam, it’s best to collect them up and visit either Hartland. To see what recycling materials are accepted at Hartland visit the CRD site.

PMD Recycling out of Sooke also offers monthly mobile pick-ups on certain Saturdays across the region at places such as Reynolds secondary, Belmont secondary, and the Fernwood Community Centre, as well as others. PMD will accept almost anything, for a small fee, from clear soft plastic to broken electronics and used batteries. See their schedule at On July 28 they’ll be at Reynolds, Stelly’s, Carnarvon Park and St. Matthias Church from 9 to 11 a.m.

Who is Recycle BC?

Recycle BC is incorporated as a legal entity and is led by a board with John Coyne from Unilever Canada Inc., Paul Hazra of Overwaitea Food Group, Bob Chant of Loblaw Companies Limited and Debbie Baxter of Deloitte. Baxter is also the chair of Recycle BC’s finance committee with Hazra.

Recycling BC stewardship, not-for-profit, retail council of Canada, large grocery stores, who then charge their members to belong to Recycle B.C., which

See what is accepted in the Blue Box program and how to sort it here.

Just for fun, play the CRD’s recycling game Ready, Set, Sort.


Plant supervisor Rob Cook explains the process where Emterra trucks drop off the region’s daily recycling at Cascades Recovery in Rock Bay. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Plant supervisor Rob Cook explains the process where Emterra trucks drop off the region’s daily recycling at Cascades Recovery in Rock Bay. Travis Paterson/News Staff