Product packaging already looks much different with bio-degradable chip bags and recyclable coffee to-go cups and the trend is set to continue with the introduction of a packaging and printed paper plan that puts the responsibility of recycling into the hands of manufacturers.
Under the provincial government’s direction, Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) is the not-for-profit organization formed by industry to manage a new printed paper and packaging recycling system that is said to relieve local governments of cost and administrative burden next year.
For the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) this ultimately means a savings of an estimated $785,000 annually, which could be injected into other environmental projects that too would result in further cost savings down the line, according to Alan Stanley, RDKB director of environmental services.
“MMBC just represents the manufacturers of all this stuff and it’s always been the goal to have the manufacturers responsible,” said Stanley. “Our board was more than happy to hand it over it to them because technically and legally now it is their problem.”
Local governments that collect waste for recycling were given a three-point ultimatum this fall to accept MMBC’s financial offer and keep collecting paper and packaged products using the local government’s contractor, to decline the MMBC offer and transfer collection to the organization or to decline MMBC and continue to collect these materials without its involvement.
In the RDKB east-sub region, Greater Trail, the board decided to decline the incentives and pass the buck onto MMBC, which will put a contract out to tender.
In the Grand Forks area, where the collection of food-scraps are combined with recycling, the regional district has accepted the incentives and therefore the responsibility of managing the current system in place until the existing contract is up.
“I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and this is the first time we’ve ever had anything like this in front of us,” added Stanley. “I don’t see it as too much of a problem, as the program will look very similar to if not identical to what it looks like now and from the user’s point of view, there should be little to no change.”
Instead, he said, with the change next May comes more opportunity.
The introduction of the system couldn’t come at a better time for the regional district, as in the near future it will accept proposals for a consultant to redo its solid waste management plan.
New money means potential earmarked projects within the plan could include a new entranceway to the McKelvey Creek Landfill or the development of a compost program in Greater Trail.
“On the upside of the costing is if you do do the organic waste composting you’re going to increase the life of all the landfills in the entire regional district, which in the long run would probably save tens of millions of dollars,” added Trail Coun. Robert Cacchioni, a regional board member.
With extending the life of the landfill comes a financial savings too, he said, noting the cost the regional district sets aside for eventual closure of Trail’s landfill jumped from $7,000 annually to $140,000 in just a few short years and due to life expectancy is estimated to continue to rise.
A new entranceway could also lengthen the life of the facility in Trail with a potential new area to fill, he added.
There is much to discuss and plenty of ways to improve the current process in Greater Trail, according to Stanley who has watched people’s perspective on reduce, reuse and recycle shift over time.
“When I started in this business nobody expected anybody to come by and pick up a blue box full of recyclables at the end of their driveway, you know 25 years later it is just part of our culture, our society,” he said. “People’s expectations do shift dramatically over time and in a few years the expectation will be ‘well industry should look after that because they make it.’”
Cacchioni’s only worry about the new plan rests in the cost of the product. He finds it difficult to believe that the manufacturers are going to take on the burden without passing it onto the consumer and predicts a small increase on the cost of products will follow suit.
“Is the government going to provide some sort of watchdog effect on the producers so they don’t just directly pass it off immediately onto the consumers?” he asked.