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Recycling plant’s closure leaves Ottawa Valley towns scrambling

A swath of the Ottawa Valley has nowhere to send its recycling following the abrupt closure of a sorting plant in Renfrew, Ont.

Beaumen Waste Management Systems shut down Sunday after more than two decades in business, leaving 32 workers jobless.

“People are upset,” said mechanic John Greer, who was at the plant Wednesday to pick up his personal belongings.

Greer, who worked at the plant for four years, said employees received no warning about the closure. He fears the plant is likely closed for good.

Workers were expecting their final paycheques Wednesday, but have been told they’ll have to wait until Friday.

The company’s president and CEO, Andrew Shouldice, did not return calls from CBC.

Challenge for municipalities

The closure poses a major challenge for municipalities from Renfrew to Arnprior that relied on the company to pick up and sort their recycling.

Beaumen had contracts with Renfrew, Arnprior, Horton, Admaston/Bromley, McNab/Braeside and Whitewater Region.

The City of Brockville also sent some of its blue box material to the plant for sorting.

Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said he was shocked by the sudden closure. Emon said he was part of a delegation of municipal officials who toured the plant just three weeks ago, and there was no hint it was about to close.

However, there had been signs in the past that the company was struggling, Emon said. Last year the company urged the Town of Renfrew to up its per household pickup fee in order to generate an extra $60,000, he said.

“[Beaumen’s president] said, ‘Look, I’m having difficulties,'” Emon said. According to Emon, Shouldice cited China’s strict new rules restricting the import of foreign waste.

“We agreed at that point to increase our payment to him, so we were a bit surprised that this happened,” Emon said.

Scramble for new facility

For the time being, Renfrew residents are being asked to hang onto their recyclable waste, but town officials are worried their patience will wear thin and all that plastic, glass and paper will end up in the local landfill.

Renfrew resident Ray Yolkowskie said he’s uncomfortable with the idea of throwing recyclables in the trash, but he’s not going to let it pile up forever.

“It’s going to be a lot more garbage in the dump, but what can you do?” he said.

Beaumen is not the only recycling company in financial peril, and Emon fears it could be a canary in the coalmine, with recyclers across Canada struggling to remain sustainable as the rules of the game change.

Earlier this month, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario applauded the Ontario government’s initiative to examine how manufacturers can be made more responsible for the cost of municipal blue box programs.

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