The Coronation and Castor Bottle Depots are in a sticky situation after it was determined by the Beverage Container Management Board (BCMB) hearing held in late October that they were to be shut down by Nov. 30.
The hearing was held by video conference where it was determined the best course of action according to the hearing panel be that they cancel both permits #19-BCD-010 and Permit #20-BCD-018 within 30 days of the decision which has now passed.
Both bottle depots are owned and operated by Gracian Thambimuthu, nicknamed Vas, who represented himself at the hearing on October 20.
This hearing ensued following allegations made by BCMB investigations officer Michelle Winmill that on Feb. 18 and 25, 2020, Thambimuthu and the depot operator of the Castor Bottle Depot, which held Permit No. 19-BCD-010 ‘accepted containers that could reasonably be identified by the depot operator as having been transported into Alberta contrary to Section 11(1) of the Regulation’.
Additionally, ‘failed to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, fair dealings and ethical conduct in all dealings with customers, the collection system agent appointed under the Regulation, any collection service provider, the BCMB and the general public by accepting containers that were transported into Alberta and delivered to ABCRC for refunds and handling commissions to which the depot was not entitled, contrary to Section 10.35 of the Depot Bylaw’.
The same accusations were submitted for the Coronation Bottle Depot as well.
“I don’t know if it’s a problem they have with me or something but the depot is not about me, it’s about the community,” Thambimuthu told the Review. “They can blame it on me but the punishment is not right.”
Thambimuthu came to Canada in 2011 and moved to Alberta in 2014. He obtained a permit to operate the Coronation Depot in May of 2015 and testified that he operated the Coronation Depot for four years without any issues with the BCMB.
He testified that he knew the previous owner of the Castor Depot and that before he applied for a permit to operate there, he spent some time with the previous owner observing the operations.
He said that the previous owner had picked up material from other locations and brought it back to the Castor Depot and that the previous owner had introduced him to their regular customers including the ones from whom he would pick up containers.
“After considering all of the evidence in relation to the volume increases, the Panel can only conclude that the increased volume was the result of the pick-ups from the scrap metal dealer, or that the Permit Holder had also been obtaining compacted containers from a source that he did not disclose either to the BCMB Compliance Department or to the Hearing Panel,” stated the BCMB panel hearing decision documentation.
Thambimuthu’s depots serviced approximately 4,000 people and went through 3-4 million containers throughout his time.
He will now be spending time with family to ‘clear his head’ and start a new beginning.
“I’m pretty sad to leave this place,” he said, adding that anyone concerned with the closures should make a call to the BCMB to complain about the inconvenience of no longer having a local depot.
The BCMB stated in their notice of the closure of Coronation’s depot, “The BCMB recognizes the closure of the Coronation and Castor Bottle Depots will make it less convenient for residents in the area to return their beverage containers for recycling and a refund.
“However, we will continue to closely monitor returns at other depots in the region and will work with the Towns of Coronation and Castor to find a solution to providing beverage container recycling systems going forward.”
Residents are asked to take their recyclables to Consort, Stettler or any nearby available depots within the region.
To avoid long driving times and support locally, members of the community are now petitioning to have the depots reopened.
Within a couple of hours of the petition in action, 65 signatures were gathered.
There are now approximately 250 signatures since last week.
Raelyn Callaway and her husband Jeff were in the process of purchasing the depot from Thambimuthu when it was stalled due to the hearing.
Raelyn shared that the most concerning part of the situation is that they will not be able to apply for a permit at both Castor and Coronation locations as the BCMB is not issuing any new permits until 2023.
She shared that the BCMB claims there is a saturated market so closing down two bottle depots is beneficial to alleviating this.
“There are too many bottle depots so they are trying to shut down small-town depots. I have nothing to prove this but it feels like they are just wanting to shut down depots but the laws say that the depots are allowed to be operated within 24km of each other,” she said.
She added that even closing down one depot and then creating a bottle drop-off program for the other community would have been better rather than closing both, stating that many will now throw out their bottles as it is not worth the half-hour drive to Consort or Stettler to do so which impacts the environment.
It also decreases economic development in that it will not attract newcomers to these two communities if there are fewer amenities such as a bottle depot.
“We don’t like that it is taking money out of the town. And it’s just one less amenity that makes the town less appealing for people who move here or are thinking about it. It’s just one less thing the town can offer its residents,” she said. “I know it sounds dramatic. It’s just a bottle depot but it also isn’t. It is frustrating.”
Speaking to one user of the Coronation Bottle Depot, who wishes to go unnamed, she stated “I’m a recycler, but there’s no way I’m spending gas money nor time to drive to a bottle depot, whether it’s 80 km or 100 km away to access my refunds. Unfortunately, my bottles will be thrown in the garbage until they (BCMB) grant a permit for a more conveniently located bottle depot.”
The Town of Coronation will not be involved in this process too much as this situation involves a private licensing operation but administration shared with the Review that they are working with Consort and Stettler Bottle Depots to ensure a pick-up service is available within town.
The program is still being developed at this time.