Columbia Institute

Columbia Institute

August 29, 2013 18:31 ET

Will BC Recycling Backslide Under the New Industry-Based System?

New Report

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Aug. 29, 2013) - Some local governments are concerned that upcoming changes to BC's recycling system could lead to poorer service for residents, unfunded costs for municipalities and a reduction in waste diversion, says a report released today by the Centre for Civic Governance at Columbia Institute.

"The introduction and growth of residential recycling programs under local governments has been one of the biggest environmental success stories in this province over the past 20 years," said Centre for Civic Governance Executive Director Charley Beresford. "There is a danger that the changes proposed could undermine this success and lead to backsliding in recycling services. Further consultation between the Province, local governments and industry could help resolve these issues and ensure that BC residents continue to receive environmentally effective, user-friendly residential recycling services."

The report found that municipalities are particularly concerned about the terms on offer in the Stewardship Plan for Packaging and Printed Paper from Multi-Material BC (MMBC), the new agency set up by BC industry to meet Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements introduced under BC's Recycling Regulation.

"This plan could have the effect of removing the number one generator of calls to city hall - garbage and recycling pickup - from local control," said Beresford.

In a letter cited in the report, Port Moody calculated a 20% difference between the MMBC financial offer and the cost of delivering services. While not all municipalities have identified the same size gap, shortfalls between MMBC incentives and program costs will leave local governments to either pick up the balance of costs, reduce residential recycling programs, or turn recycling directly over to MMBC, a choice which offers no guarantees that services will be maintained at established levels.

Some municipalities have concerns that the funding gap in MMBC offers could be compounded by what many see as unrealistic standards and punitive penalties for recycling 'contamination'. Prince George City Council cited this as a key reason for their vote to reject MMBC's offer on August 27.

The report also found that a number of municipalities are concerned that the new program lacks effective regulations and incentives to ensure that producers reduce product packaging. Reduced packaging is one of the stated goals of provincial EPR regulations.

Municipalities are required to respond to MMBC's offers by September 16, 2013, and a number of local governments are calling for the Province to intervene and extend the consultation and negotiation process.

The Centre for Civic Governance is a Vancouver-based public policy institute that works with community leadership to meet today's social and environmental challenges.

The full report is available online at: www.civicgovernance.ca/recycling_changes_bc.

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