Regional district question benefits of new recycling program

The managing director of Multi-Material BC spoke to regional district directors about the new recycling program on April 1.

Allen Langdon

Regional District representatives had a chance to clear some confusion, as well as vent some frustrations, at the new provincial recycling program being implemented around B.C. this month.

Allen Langdon, managing director of Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) was in the hot seat as he took questions from Regional District of East Kootenay directors at a committee meeting on Thursday afternoon, May 1. Langdon was there to answer question about the benefits of being in the program.

“We are the latest in over 20 stewardship agencies that have come along before us, for materials such as paint, tires, electronics, lightbulbs, light fixtures, batteries — I could go on,” Langdon said. “This is nothing new in terms of this model, but we’re by far the largest program.”

Langdon said it’s also the program that’s had the most interaction with municipalities, because in most cases it involves the transition from local government-run programs to a provincial corporation programs.

He said comparatively when the electronics recycling program came into being, there wasn’t a large scale program already in place like in this case.

“It was really filling a gap, whereas this is much more a transition and enhancement of service that is right now is being fronted by municipal taxpayers,” he said.

Langdon later admitted in the meeting: “We’re not calling it an enhancement of service in this regional district.”

That was prompted by Invermere Director Gerry Taft, who was not convinced of the benefits of the program, noting there will only be two depots in Cranbrook and one in Invermere for the East Kootenay.

“To suggest that people from Spillimacheen or outside of Canal Flats are somehow going to drive to a municipality an hour away to bring their cardboard and recycling material and call that an enhancement of service is ridiculous,” Taft said, adding the current yellow bin system serves the 56,000 residents of the RDEK well.

Area G Director Gerry Wilkie agreed.

“We have an outstanding recycling program through the regional district and through the yellow bins,”  Wilkie said.

“In particular in the rural areas. And a whole generation have bought into it. If we lose that, that’s so highly retrogressive.”

Mary Giuliano, City of Fernie director, wanted clarification about what’s expected for the newspaper industry in the program.

“Our local newspaper (Fernie Free Press) has a concern with being designated that they are now producers of paper,” Giuliano said. “They’ve approached our council with a letter wanting our support. We have not acted on it, however, I would like clarification of why you believe they think this program could be the end of the newspaper that has served Fernie for over 110 years.”

Langdon said it’s not a decision by MMBC to classify newspapers as a producer, but a result of the provincial recycling regulations. He said newspapers representatives have not as yet joined MMBC, though he noted newspapers were a part back at the birth of MMBC back in 2011. The newspapers left in 2012 to explore other options.

“They had until Nov. 19, 2012, to submit a stewardship plan,” he said. “They did not submit a stewardship plan. I am sympathetic to the plight of the newspaper industry in terms of their financial situation, but unfortunately it’s something that’s outside my purview.”.

He said in Ontario for instance the municipal governments are subsidizing newspapers to the tune of $16 million a year. And similar things are happening in Manitoba as well.

He said there hasn’t been any movement for something like that to happen in this province.

MMBC’s board is made up of paying members from a number of multinational corporations, including Tim Hortons, Loblaw, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, and Unilever.

Wayne Stetski, City of Cranbrook director and mayor, asked what suggestion Langdon would have to make things better.

He replied the only thing he would have recommended is that MMBC should have more time. He said municipalities pressured the province to keep on the course, since delaying it an extra year would have meant missing out on MMBC funding for that year. He gave no indication which municipalities those were.

“One of the challenges of the program, and I won’t undersell it, is that we’re trying to move forward in a standard model,” he said.

That adherence to a standard model was a source of frustration at the meeting.

Director Taft asked why they can’t make an arrangement where MMBC works with the regional district to refine the current yellow bin system to meet the provincial requirements MMBC must adhere to.

Mike Sosnowski, Area A director, furthered the line of thought, asking whether MMBC could buy sorted material from the RDEK if the current program adopted the provincial sorting requirements.

“You seem like the perfect outlet,” Sosnowski said. “So if we give you the stuff, pay us. Does that model work? I don’t get it. We could do that, and save money on that, but your model’s not offering us that.”

Langdon said what it comes down to is the contracts have been signed with stipulations that it be standardized across the province.

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