New B.C. recycling program frustrates municipalities

Some municipal politicians in B.C. are demanding more time to review a new recycling program designed to shift the costs from municipalities to a new industry organization.
B.C. wants to shift the burden of recycling onto industry 2:02

Some municipal politicians in B.C. are demanding more time to review a new recycling program designed to shift the costs from municipalities to a new industry organization.

At the moment, municipalities pay for recycling pick-up and disposal through property taxes.

But a new industry group called Multi-Materials B.C. (MMBC) representing major producers such as grocery stores and manufacturers is set to take over responsibility all printed paper products and packaging.

The intention is to shift the cost burden from taxpayers and municipalities onto the producers of goods that need to be recycled.

Municipalities have the option to sign contracts with MMBC to continue to pick up curbside recycling, but the deadline for them to sign up for the program is today.  

But critics say MMBC isn't offering them enough money to continuing collecting the recyclable goods at the curbside, and they need more time to consider the deal.

Hot topic at UBCM

The issue is already one of the hottest topics this week at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention underway in Vancouver, where municipal politicians are gathering to debate about 150 policy resolutions, including everything from local government finances to emergency preparedness programs to the impact of natural gas fracking on local water supplies.

On Monday Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie put forward a special resolution calling on the province to give the municipalities an extra 90 days to review the industry recycling program.

Brodie's motion raises specific concerns about the financial risks, the level of service and other details lacking in the proposal.

Last week the NDP local government critic Selina Robinson called on the province to step in.

"I think they need to go back to the drawing table and do a better job of consulting. I think the intention is good, the rollout isn't working." 

But Environment Minister Mary Polak doesn't agree.

"There is a negotiation taking place and so that needs to happen and we'll be watching closely what the outcomes are and encouraging MMBC to take seriously the concerns local governments have."

Polak says it just makes sense for producers to be the ones footing the bill.

Province mandated new program in 2011

In 2011, B.C. amended its recycling regulations to require producers that sell packaging and printed paper to develop a stewardship plan with the B.C. Ministry of Environment or join a stewardship agency working on their behalf.

Multi Material B.C. was created by paper and packaging producers in B.C. to develop a plan for the industry. The nonprofit agency will be taking over paper and packaging recycling in 2014.

Under the program "local governments, companies and organizations that collect residential packaging and printed paper or prepare it for shipment to end-markets are service providers and can contract with MMBC to provide services. Or, if they prefer, MMBC will be responsible for directly providing collection services."

The MMBC program will also enable British Columbian residents to recycle new categories of packaging that are not commonly included in current curbside or depot recycling programs. These materials include:

  • Gabletop containers (e.g.. milk cartons).
  • Aerosol containers.
  • Plant pots.
  • Aluminum foil containers.
  • Aseptic containers (e.g.. soy milk and soup containers).
  • Plastic clamshell containers (commonly supplied by bakeries and delis).
  • Paper packaging coated with wax or plastic (e.g.. milk and ice cream cartons).
  • Hot and cold drink cups.


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