May 19 was more than just the Queen’s birthday in 2014. It was also the day that responsibility for paying for residential recycling shifted to an organization known as Multi-Materials BC (MMBC).
Regional District Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) Solid Waste Management Coordinator Tim Dueck explained that MMBC is a stewardship agency set up to comply with provincial regulations that controls product packaging. Common examples of such programs already exist— tires, used oil and beverage containers, for example, where the distributor or manufacturer has to comply with regulations.
“The province has added to their Environmental Management Act that paper and product packaging are now regulated products for households and MMBC is the agency that was set up by industry in response to this regulation,” Dueck said.
For the past 20 years regional districts were solely responsible for solid waste management and many of them —RDKB included—had established recycling programs that diverted as much material from the landfill as possible. It was in their financial interest to do so because extending the life of a landfill is much cheaper than siting a new one. What changed on May 19 is who is responsible for covering the collection costs for recycling paper and product packaging.
“They have submitted a plan of how they are going to live up to the regulations to the province and the province has accepted it,” Dueck explained. “The plan calls for recovery rate targets and how they intend to do that is entirely up to them.
They just have to hit these targets and the province monitors their progress.“ Dueck said that in some parts if the province MMBC has brought in new programs. In Prince George, for example, they have started curb side collection where it previously never existed.
“In our region we have been doing that for years and years and for the most part residents won’t see any difference at the curb side or at the unstaffed neighbourhood depots in downtown Greenwood and Midway,” he said.
The recycling bins at the Rock Creek and Greenwood landfills are being moved inside the gates and, because they will only be accessible when landfill staff is onsite, MMBC will pay the regional district money for materials collected at these sites. “We have various obligations which we have to fulfill in order to meet the MMBC requirements,” explained Dueck.
“Most notably is purity—we have to have a less than three per cent contamination rate. So we have to monitor the activity at these depots much more closely in order to hit these targets.”
Other changes that came in May 19 are that glass, Styrofoam and foam packaging are now collected for recycling (at the landfill recycling depots only). Film plastic is currently collected at the curb side but this is collected separately at the landfill depots now as well.
The curb side residential collection contracted to Kettle Valley Waste (KVW) will now receive funding from MMBC. The current contract between KVW and the regional district is due to expire May 31, 2016, but the RDKB Environmental Services Committee voted to support extending the West Boundary contract by 13 months so that it will expire on June 30, 2017 at the same time as the existing KVW contract for Areas C, D and the City of Grand Forks.
But Dueck noted that the downtown Greenwood and Midway depots are operating outside of the MMBC system. “At these depots the contamination rate is off the scale,” Dueck said. “They would never match that three per cent target. So they are wholly supported by the tax dollar from the solid waste budget of the regional district.”
MMBC program does not cover materials that come out of the industrial-commercial-institutional stream. So in order for MMBC to be able to quantify how much it owes the regional district, the business stream now has to be kept separate. So now there will be two or more bins at the landfills and the business stream will have to go into it’s own bin.
“The regional district will continue to provide that service to businesses for the time being,” said Dueck.
For the same reason, KVW has been told they can no longer accept recycling from businesses.
“We cannot allow business material to contaminate our residential stream,” explained Dueck adding that picking up the business stream never was part of the contract between KVW and the regional district anyway.
Curb side recycling in the east end of the regional district is now collected by MMBC itself and Dueck said there is only one unstaffed recycling depot in the east end, in Fruitvale.
Dueck said that if people have any opinions about depots, recycling, garbage, landfill hours or anything like that, this is the time to get involved because the RDKB is in the midst of a Solid Waste Management Plan Review.
He said a meeting of the technical and public advisory committees was held in Grand Forks at the beginning of the month. The minutes of those meetings are available online, by looking around rdkb.com for Solid Waste Management meetings held on May 7 and 8 in Trail and Grand Forks. “Each of those comments will be addressed—there will be a response in the Solid Waste Management Plan explaining why or why not they are included in the SWMP.”
“As part of the SWMP review we will be evaluating whether the unstaffed depots are good value for the tax dollars being spent or not,” cautioned Dueck.
In other words the downtown Midway and Greenwood depots may be going away under the new plan. Other changes that might come about through the SWMP review are moving away from collecting film plastic at curb side and the continued funding by the local taxpayer for the collection of the industrial-commercial- institutional stream.