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February 2004


Log strand recycling program working in BC

An initiative to handle log bundling strand is showing how industry and government can work together to create effective environmental solutions.

By Christianne Wilhelmson

Environment Canada’s Log Bundling Strand Recycling Initiative was launched in the spring of 2001 to encourage BC’s forest industry to handle log bundling strand in an environmentally responsible way. The success of the program appears to show how industry and government can work together to create effective solutions to environmental concerns, while addressing the realities of the competitive business climate. Environment Canada’s long-term goal for this initiative is to change the way bundling strand is handled in British Columbia.

The forest industry and Environment Canada have been working to find the best solution to keeping bundling strand out of BC’s coastal waterways. For mills and log handling companies, less strand in the water means fewer repairs and less downtime to boat props and other equipment.

To do this, the government had to work with industry from the very beginning. “By listening to the concerns of the business community, while providing information about environmental, social and economic benefits of recycling, we developed a really successful program,” says Environment Canada’s Sean Standing. This strategy has meant most mills had made the needed changes to be ready for the April 1, 2003 deadline, when log bundling strand is no longer permitted when dredging and ocean disposal permits are issued.

Prior to the development of this initiative, Environment Canada estimated that of the approximately 15.2 million metres of log bundling strand the forest industry used every year, 1.6 million metres found its way into BC’s coastal waterways. But in the first year of this program, the amount of wire collected from mills increased by 450 per cent. Between 2002 and 2003, that amount increased another 400 per cent. The initiative, however, is not only about the wire collected but also about the recycled strand being bought by industry, which is also on the rise. The amount of recycled strand sold in BC in 2002 was double that of 2001. Recycling companies such as Schiller Boom Gear of Coquitlam, BC expect that they can recover 90 per cent of the new bundling strand entering coastal waterways within two years.

Environment Canada’s Log Bundling Strand Recycling Initiative has encouraged members of the affected sectors to work together to find the best business solution to keeping the bundling strand out of the water. The result has been the creation of an infrastructure that continues to reduce costs. “There has been an improvement in the process that has led to a reduction in cost at both ends of the recycling circle,” says Fred Schiller of Schiller Boom Gear. For many mills, the new efficient system has also meant fewer repairs and less downtime from wire damage to boat props and other equipment.

Eventually, recyclers of bundling wire hope that industry will be encouraged to use a minimum of 20 per cent recycled wire back in the field. “Twenty per cent is a good number as it will make shops like mine busy,” says Kirk Mackenzie of River Cable. Mackenzie’s estimate of how much of the wire can actually be recycled is based on the condition the wire is in when it arrives. As the process improves, recyclers hope that mills will eventually change from using grapple machines (that leave the wire stretched and frayed) and deal with wire so more can be recycled. The forest industry has risen to the challenge of dealing with log bundling strand as it has with many other types of waste.

As the infrastructure becomes more refined, collecting and recycling strand will become a normal part of doing business. Environment Canada believes that the Log Bundling Recycling Initiative is the first step in creating a wire recapture and recycling system that will take on a life of its own. “We want this initiative to encourage industry to find their own way of dealing with bundling strand,” says Environment Canada’s Sean Standing. Fred Schiller has high hopes too. “We hope we’re developing a model that other people can use, helping to develop local solutions elsewhere,” he says. With this part of the initiative well underway, Environment Canada will work with industry to find an effective way to track just how much wire is being recaptured and reused.

Tracking of wire will ensure that everyone can see just how well the program continues to work. Environment Canada’s decision to initiate changes that focused on education and an industry-driven solution has left a sense that things have gone more smoothly than previous efforts. Fred Schiller believes Environment Canada’s firm but realistic approach has made the industry more open to the change in the long run. This is a promising legacy for not only this program, but also continuing efforts to make sure that both BC businesses and the environment remain healthy.

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