The province’s new recycling program is only two months away and the new regulations have some of B.C.’s business community up in arms while the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), the municipal agency that has been responsible for providing recycling services up until now, maintains that residents probably won’t notice much of a difference.
“The changes coming May 19 are mostly administrative, part of a regulatory change from the province,” said Tim Dueck, solid waste program coordinator for the RDKB. “It’s changing to a stewardship model, where industry has to take care of the recycling of materials they produce.”
Under the new regulations, the responsibility for the cost of dealing with recyclable materials shifts from local governments, who covered the cost of recycling through tax revenues, to the businesses that produce the materials.
However, the stewardship model of managing waste is not new by any means. There are numerous materials the people use everyday that are already managed by similar, producer-managed systems.
Soft drink containers, beer and alcohol cans and bottles, electronics, oil and anti-freeze, batteries, paints and solvents, and tires are but a few items that have been recycled through provincially-regulated, industry-managed programs for years.
Under the new regulations a number of materials that were previously forbidden from the ubiquitous curb-side blue boxes, such as milk cartons, foam packaging, aluminum foil packaging, plastic film packaging, and drink cups, will now be allowed to be put out with the rest of the household recycling.
While residents and regional bodies may welcome the changes to the system, a coalition of B.C. business stakeholder groups are voicing strong objections to the regulatory changes, prompting them to back a province-wide advertising campaign to protest being asked to shoulder the cost of recycling printed paper and packaging.
“For months British Columbia business owners have tried unsuccessfully to convince Minister of Environment, Mary Polak, to rethink the flawed plan the ministry put forth,” Mike Klassen, director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said in a recent media release. “Now business groups representing significant parts of B.C.’s economy have come together to ask the premier to step in to prevent this new red tape that will kill jobs and cause many businesses to fail.”
One of the many objections the business group has to the new system taking effect in the province is that the not-for-profit agency which will be managing the recycling program, Multi Material B.C. (MMBC) is governed by a board made up of international business interests such as Walmart, Tim Hortons Inc., Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Coca Cola Refreshments Canada.
But MMBC has a slightly different take on the position of the new campaign to delay or cancel the new regulatory changes.
“They have known about these changes since 2011,” Allen Langdon, managing director of MMBC, told the Trail Times. “They were well aware of their obligations, they could have been on the board, they could have come up with their own program for dealing with the materials, they need to have a program in place by May 18.”
Langdon maintains that the changes will have a minimal effect on B.C. businesses because of exemptions to the program for smaller businesses introduced by the province in February.
Under the exemptions small businesses will not be required to report or cover the recycling costs if they have under $1 million in annual revenue, if they produce under one tonne of packaging or printed paper, or if they operate as a single point of retail sale and are not part of a larger franchise.
“We anticipate that this will impact less than one per cent of the businesses in the province,” said Langdon. “We’re going to continue to focus on our objective, the start of the program is 60 days away.”
The changes to the recycling program means considerable savings to the regional district in the future but that doesn’t mean home owners in the RDKB will see a drop in their taxes any time soon.
“There will be a cost saving of hundreds of thousands of dollars and the board passed a resolution to re-purpose the tax onto an organic material management program,” said Dueck. “About 42 per cent of our present garbage is in the form of organic plant and animal refuse, this is an opportunity to target a huge portion of what currently goes into our landfills and compost it. This is a direct result of the savings from the changes to the recycling program.”