New recycling program facing rising opposition

Not enough small business consultation, says stakeholder group who launched an ad campaign against implementation of MMBC this May

  • Mar. 18, 2014 4:00 p.m.

 

Increasing concerns surrounding aspects of the Multi-Material BC (MMBC) program is resulting in a growing protest against the implementation of the plan on May 19.

RethinkItBC, an advertising campaign launched by small business stakeholders in B.C. last week, wants to stop the province in its tracks, and delay the May 19 implementation of the legislation until more thorough consultation of small business can be undertaken.

The stakeholders include members of the agriculture, landscaping and nursery industry, newspaper and the recycling industry.

Concerns are growing that MMBC will come to monopolize the recycling industry in the province, sacrificing an industry that has been doing well without them. There are also concerns  that MMBC is governed by a board of eastern big business interests, which won’t necessarily be compatible  with those of the B.C. consumer.

As recently as  October, 2013, a Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey asked small business owners if they understood their obligations with respect to new paper and packaging waste disposal regulations. Seventy-three per cent responded they knew little or nothing about MMBC’s program.

Mike Klassen, Canadian Federation of Independent Business Director of Provincial Affairs for B.C. said the MMBC plan was approved prior to the last provincial election, and slipped under the radar of most of the province’s small business during the campaign.

“Last summer, thousands of small business owners in B.C. suddenly received a letter from MMBC requesting them to register or face the prospect of a $200,000 fine,” Klassen said.

“That’s when we began receiving calls from B.C. business., and that’s when we began to get involved.”

 

Klassen said the program is not designed for small business, nor was enough consultation done.

“The observations of people I have talked to say the program is  predicated on fine revenues, and as a business model is not sustainable,” Klassen said.

 

Under the MMBC plan, business and collection agencies would be subject to heavy fines for such things as contamination of recycle loads. (Contaminated loads containing more than three per cent by weight of non printed paper or packaged material, for example, would incite fines of up to $5,000 per weigh-scale ticketed load).

Business late fees would be subject to four per cent plus prime penalties.

Regional districts and local governments have been forced to jump on board, because no alternatives exist to the MMBC plan.

“Business doesn’t have to sign up to the MMBC plan, but under legislation they are still required to collect back 75 per cent of the recycleable material they sell, and the option for business to create their own stewardship plan would be too costly,” Klassen explained.

Klassen also noted MMBC would essentially be driven by retail interests originating in Ontario, with few tools by which the government could hold them accountable.

“It’s  a supreme kick in the teeth for business,” Klassen said, “bad public policy can have unforseen consequences. Is the plan sustainable? We’re not sure it is – and predictions are it’s going to cost 80 to 100 million dollars just to set up and run.”

Questions regarding a lack of consultation and design flaws of the program with respect to small business were put to Ministry of Environment Communications Officer Suntanu Dalal by Review the earlier this week. He referred to a press release issued by the MOE on February 4, 2014. The news release described a number of initiatives implemented by the province to exempt all but roughly 3,000 businesses in B.C. from the program.

The press release described new regulations,  through which government would exempt businesses:

– under one million dollars in annual revenues.

– those producing less than one tonne of packaging or printed paper supplied to B.C. residents annually.

– businesses operating as a single point of retail sale not supplied by or operated as part of a franchise, chain or banner.

Questioned about MMBC’s board makeup,  Allen Langdon, Managing Director for MMBC told the Review, “MMBC’s board is comprised of companies that are paying members of our organization.  The board is currently in the process of being expanded to 15 with that process to be complete by June.

“Like today, this board will be representative of companies with operations in B.C. that are paying into the program and will be representative of different sectors and geographies.”

With respect to MMBC’s business model, Langdon said in an email  MMBC’s program plan is financed by fees paid by producers based on the amount of packaging and printed paper they supply to the residential marketplace.

“Programs like MMBC’s have been in existence for over 10 years in jurisdictions such as Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, so we are confident that the model of producer responsibility has been proven to work during this time,” Langdon said in an email.

Cameron Baughen, Solid Waste Management Coordinator for the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen, said the incentives offered by MMBC for curbside collection in the regional district ended up being higher than expected, at roughly $40 per 12 month period per home in all areas serviced.

“There were no negotiations. Every local government providing the service was offered the same incentives with some modifications based on geographic area served,” Baughen explained.

The regional district’s contract term with MMBC is for five years but the RDOS can remove themselves from the contract with six months notice.

“We will be able to adjust the number of homes as they are built or demolished every three months. The $40 fee will not change, only the number of homes serviced over the contract,” Baughen added.

The regional district’s present contract with BFI Canada – for curbside residential collection – expires July 2016. Baughen said they will revisit the MMBC contract in the summer of 2015 to see whether they wish to continue the MMBC contract, or require MMBC to provide recycling collection services to regional district residents.

When the MMBC program is implemented on May 19, the entire province will have the same materials collected. In the regional district, plastic bags, styrofoam and glass will be brought to depots, located at local landfills and some bottle depots.

At the curbside, plastic bags such as  grocery bags will be removed, but new items such as clean and dry paper cups, tetrapaks, frozen juice concentrate containers and milk cartons will be added.

The regional district will be sending out more information closer to the date in order to reduce confusion over the start date for recycling of the new items.