RDKB prepares for recycling changes

Change is coming - as responsibility for blue box recycling moves from local government to an industry-run agency - Multi Material BC.

Jim Holtz – Grand Forks Gazette

Despite fears of increased costs raised in other districts and municipalities around the province over changes to recycling regulations, taxpayers in the Kootenay Boundary Regional District (RDKB) have nothing to worry about.

According to Alan Stanley, director of environmental services, when new regulations regarding recycling come into effect in May, neither taxpayers or homeowners will notice any change in either taxes or service.

“Our recommendation to the board, which was adopted, was that we keep the (recycling) program exactly as it is for the time being, and then we’ll let this new program start up,” he said.

As a result of new provincial regulations, all major retailers and producers of paper and plastic packaging must take responsibility for collecting and recycling their packaging by next May.

In order to achieve that end, a new provincial agency, Multi-Material BC (MMBC), was created and all major producers and retailers were required to join, each submitting an extensive plan for ways in which they intended to reduce the amount of packaging they use.

According to MMBC managing director Allen Langdon, producers will pay for their share of the new program based on how much packaging they generate, thereby providing them with a profit incentive to reduce packaging.

Having the MMBC take over paper and packaging recycling should result in an annual saving of around $500,000 to the regional district, according to RDKB chairman Larry Gray.

And while taxpayers may hope for a slight reduction in taxes because of that saving, Gray says that is not likely.

“We have some long term situations which we are looking at,” Gray said. “We have some landfill sites that we have to put some money aside for; maybe 20 years down the road we will have to close those sites.”

According to Stanley, the key to extending the life of landfill sites rests with effective organic waste management.

“Organics management is very important to the future of solid waste management programs,” Stanley said.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity to have that discussion, and the timing is perfect as well because the board has decided to do a full update of the Solid Waste Management Plan, the provincially mandated document that the districts have to have to look at a lot of these initiatives that we are working on.”

The complexity of having MMBC completely take over the wide variety of municipal and regional district recycling programs has left some local officials around the province concerned that not only will service be reduced, but that costs for taxpayers and home owners will increase.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie worries that taxpayers will end up paying twice: first through their taxes and then again when the major producers and retailers increase the cost of goods to make up for the cost of recycling.

Stanley is more optimistic. The new program is very similar to recommendations that the RDKB brought to the Union of BC Municipalities in 2009, he said, and expansion of recycling and waste reduction is something that the region’s residents are in favour of.

“The success of the Grand Forks green bin program has really inspired a lot of the board members and the citizens across the district,” he said, and prompted many people to ask when it can be expanded throughout the district.

“There’s an awful lot of speculative nay saying, where people are saying that they don’t think this new program is going to work out,” Stanley continued. “Well, holy cow, we do a lot of new programs and initiatives and if we just worried about what might go wrong, we never would get anything done.

“You have to weigh the pros as well as the cons and give everything the appropriate weight, not just look at the negative which I think a lot of people are doing. I think that is doing a disservice to their citizens.”

B.C. civic leaders have demanded an extra 90 days to negotiate acceptable terms for the coming shift of blue box recycling control to industry-run agency Multi Material BC.

Delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention unanimously backed the resolution recently and agreed to strike a working group to help coordinate negotiations on behalf of affected cities.

Many cities fear degraded recycling services depending on how the new system rolls out and argue MMBC won’t pay them enough to cover their costs if they agree to keep running curbside collection as contractors.

If cities decline to be paid collectors, MMBC will contract the service out to firms and may let them halt curbside pickup of glass and direct residents to take jars and bottles to a depot instead.