A radical new plan that will change how blue box recycling materials are collected, processed and marketed is now before the provincial government.
On Nov. 19, not-for-profit Multi-Material British Columbia, a group of retailers and manufacturers tasked with spearheading the change, presented its initial draft plan to Environment Minister Terry Lake.
According to the Packaging and Printed Paper Stewardship Plan, the change will shift all costs of blue box recycling from civic taxpayers to industry with the goal to reduce packaging.
The new waste management system will see manufacturers and stores pay 100 per cent of the costs of recycling their products and packaging, but will also retain ownership of the recycled material.
“It’s a game changer, no doubt about it,” said Gary Franssen, Nanaimo manager of sanitation and recycling, adding that a funding formula has yet to be introduced.
“It’s still a work in progress and has to be reviewed so it can move to the next step.”
A deadline of May 2014 has been set in B.C., the earliest in Canada, for when producers have to start paying the full cost of recycling and packaging.
Part of what makes the new system so complicated is that what is collected differs from city to city, and that some municipalities perform their own recycling collection while others, like Nanaimo, contract it out.
Kitchen waste and garbage will remain municipal responsibilities.
Allen Langdon, chairman of Multi-Material B.C., said the transformation would be easier with a more consistent B.C.-wide system, and it would also be easier and cheaper to market and promote.
Virtually all recyclable packaging – from cardboard boxes to plastics to tin cans – will be included in the collection process.
Franssen said more consultation and input from city officials will be needed to decide how items like glass will be handled.
“We’d like to see glass remain a drop-off item because as far as we’re concerned it can be dangerous when mixed in with other items,” he said, adding that municipalities have also expressed other concerns, like maintaining fair competition for recycled materials and compensation for recyclables that do end up in landfills.
The consultation process between cities and Multi-Material B.C. is expected to be ongoing to ensure a smooth transition when the project drops. The issue was considered in a report by municipalities in September at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria.
“Local governments believe that the product stewardship program should focus on clear environmental protection as opposed to simply the cost impact on producers,” said the report.
Franssen added that manufacturers and retailers will have to carefully reconsider how they package materials now that they will be the owners of that material after it is collected.
“Televisions, for example, currently come boxed with Styrofoam, which has a negative value,” he said. “So maybe manufacturers will want to switch to something more environmentally friendly like paper, which appears more green and has value.”
The MMBC is governed by a board of directors comprised of members appointed by the Retail Council of Canada, Food and Consumer Products of Canada, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, Canadian Restaurant Food Services Association, Loblaw Companies Limited, Overwaitea Food Group, Tim Hortons and McCain Foods. For more information on the Packaging and Printed Paper Stewardship Plan, visit www.multimaterialbc.ca.
– with files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press