Changes coming next year to the way paper material is recycled British Columbia could mean consumers will pay higher prices for products while still paying fees for collection. The system being foisted onto municipalities under a strict deadline by the provincial government could also be "step backward," according to Chilliwack city staff, as the new system will require more separation of recyclables than the current comingled collection.
At Tuesday's meeting of city council, Mayor Sharon Gaetz lauded the province's "cradle-to-cradle" philosophy but criticized the not-for-profit body created to implement the plan.
"We don't appreciate the fact that if we don't ago along with this then our taxpayers could end up paying twice for service and so we really do need to continue this discussion," Gaetz said.
By May 2014, producers of packaged and printed paper in B.C. will be responsible for funding the stewardship program to collect and recycle these materials. Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) is the body created by the Ministry of the Environment to develop and implement the plan. But MMBC has put forward an offer that city hall says will not fully financially compensate the municipality for recycling and they have been given a deadline of Sept. 16 to unconditionally accept or reject the deal. City council was told by staff that the tight deadline meant they could not do the thorough financial and risk analysis required.
The "paying twice" Gaetz is concerned about comes from the fact that funding for the new plan will come from producers who will pass the cost on to consumers. And because MMBC's "one-sided" contract will not cover costs to the city, taxpayers will still be on the hook.
A Vancouver-based public policy think tank articulated similar concerns to Chilliwack's in a report issued Aug. 29.
"The introduction and growth of residential recycling 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 B.C. residents continue to receive environmentally effective, user-friendly residential recycling services."
Some communities have already accepted the MMBC offfer while others have expressed similar backsliding in recycling services. Further consultation between the province, local governments and industry could help resolve these issues and ensure that B.C. residents continue to receive environmentally effective, user-friendly residential recycling services." Some communities have already accepted the MMBC offfer while others have expressed similar displeasure to Chilliwack. Prince George city council, for example, unanimously rejected the offer in August.
At Tuesday's meeting, council voted to accept "in principle" MMBC's offer of financial compensation with the caveat that "the service agreement is renegotiated to ensure a mutually beneficial partnership."
"We have got a letter going out to the province indicating that we are not pleased with the short deadline of Sept. 16," Gaetz said.
The city may find itself up against a wall, however, as on MMBC's website the deadline to respond to the offer is made firm.
"We understand the challenges of the sequence of events leading to May 19, 2014 for all parties: collectors, post-collection service providers, stewards and MMBC. However, given stewards' regulatory obligation to assume responsibility for [packaged and printed paper] as of May 19, 2014 and the need to issue an RFP for post-collection services following the Sept. 16 deadline, MMBC is reconfirming the September 16 deadline for collector responses
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