This aerial view of the Peerless Road Recycling Drop-Off Depot shows the work that has taken place in the last 11 months to upgrade the site.

This aerial view of the Peerless Road Recycling Drop-Off Depot shows the work that has taken place in the last 11 months to upgrade the site.

Peerless Road upgrades now complete

The upgrades Peerless Road Recycling Drop-Off Depot at the south end of Ladysmith has re-opened.

When the Peerless Road Recycling Drop-Off Depot officially opens this week, the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) will celebrate increased options for recycling, improved safety and access, and the innovative remediation of old incinerator ash.

It’s been almost a year since upgrades to the site began, and the depot will celebrate its grand opening this Wednesday (March 12) at 11 a.m.

The Peerless Road site closed April 15, 2013, to allow for major upgrades and remediation of the old ash landfill. A temporary drop-off site on Thicke Road was used until the Peerless Road depot re-opened at the beginning of the month.

One of the major components of the work undertaken at the drop-off site in the past year was the remediation of the old incinerator ash, which was contaminated.

An incinerator operated on the site for many years, depositing ash that needed to be encapsulated, explained Ladysmith Mayor and CVRD Chair Rob Hutchins.

“One of the challenges is we had 45,000 tonnes of bottom ash we had to secure and encapsulate,” he said. ‘That’s one of the reasons [the site] is larger than we anticipated, the space we needed to do that. We have lots of room to grow; with future population growth, this will serve us for many, many decades to come.”

Bob McDonald, the CVRD’s manager of recycling and waste management, believes the way the new recycling depot has re-used the old bottom ash as a base for the site is quite innovative and is one of the site’s biggest features.

If the CVRD had to take all that ash off site, it would have cost $10 million, but through some creative engineering, they were able to put it to bed in an environmentally sound manner, which cost $2 million, he explained.

Another major piece of the transformation was stripping the old incinerator building to its core and rebuilding it. The building is now a drop-off site for free items such as batteries and lights.

“What we were trying to create was almost a very user-friendly, Granville Island market where people can wander in and drop off items, and they’re all free,” said McDonald. “We wanted to make it a very user-friendly experience.”

Making it easier to recycle was a big part of this upgrade.

The new site accepts all sorts of material, such as household recycling, organic kitchen waste, small electronics and more.

“When you add up all the different categories, it comes out to 650 different items,” noted McDonald. “Most times, you start looking through that list, and you’d never think that type of thing would be recycled. When you add it all up, not only is this one of the biggest sites in the province, if not western Canada, but it also has the most options to drop things off. It’s quite leading-edge.”

There are 21 tipping bays at the site, and the new recycling depot is divided into two areas — a free drop-off area for items such as yard waste, organic kitchen waste, plastics and metal, and a paid drop-off area for items such as garbage, lumber and roofing.

The old recycling depot had only one vehicle scale, but this one has two, and Hutchins hopes this will significantly shorten lineups and waiting times.

The CVRD received more than $1.5 million in Federal Gas Tax money to help build the new recycling site because it was so innovative, according to McDonald.

“I think it really sets the bar for other facilities,” said McDonald. “We’re anxious to open the gates officially and start bringing people through it and hear the response. The site’s done a complete 180 from being the most crude disposal facility to the most advanced recycling facility.”

“This was certainly an ambitious project for us, but it’s long overdue,” added Hutchins. “We are certainly delighted by the results, and hats off to all those people who made it happen.”