New recycling program may bring changes

A new recycling program implemented across B.C. may affect the North Island.

PORT McNEILL—Up to now, recycling has been encouraged but not mandated on the North Island. That is poised to change next spring, when a sweeping new recycling program is implemented across British Columbia.

Multi-Material BC, a consortium of retailers and manufacturers charged by legislation with diverting 75 per cent of all packaging materials from the landfill stream, outlined the program last Friday in an online webinar for municipalities and regional districts.

“Whether we take this on ourselves, or it’s imposed through a contractor, it’s coming,” Regional District of Mount Waddington operations manager Patrick Donaghy said.

Donaghy was joined Friday in the RDMW board room by Town of Port McNeill administrator Sue Harvey and Port McNeill Public Works manager Glenn Boyd for the informational webinar, presented by MMBC’s Glenda Frieze.

In the presentation, Frieze outlined the benefits and responsibilities to local governments — both municipalities and regional districts — of adding the recycling service to their existing garbage collection services.

Those municipalities who contracted curbside garbage collection as of November 2012, when the MMBC plan was submitted, are eligible for various monetary incentives and bonuses for adding recycling collection at residential households and multi-family dwelling units.

The money would come from a fee levied on packaging materials, from plastic to cardboard to glass, and collected by MMBC’s wholesale and retail members. No local tax levies would be issued for the service, but if municipalities choose not to include curbside recycling in their collection contracts, MMBC will tender bids for the service.

“September 16 (2013) is the deadline for a response from the collectors,” Frieze told her online audience, made up from municipal and regional district representatives across the province. “In early of the first quarter of 2014 the contracts will be awarded, and the program will launch on May 19, 2014.

The Town of Port McNeill qualifies for the incentives through its solid waste collection contract with Fox Disposal, Ltd. Collection in outlying residential areas like Hyde Creek and Nimpkish Heights, however, is by the choice of individual households. Those areas would not be covered under the town plan, but those residents would still be impacted by the change. And those who do not currently deliver their recyclables to the local depot or Seven Mile Landfill would no longer be able simply to shove them in the garbage.

“Fox would have the right to refuse pickup if the garbage cans contained a high enough percentage of recyclable packaging materials,” Donaghy said. “It would be a hardship for those people.”

The good news for those who currently recycle, either through local transfer stations, collection drops or through delivery to Seven Mile Landfill’s recycling centre, is the new program would mandate collection of items like glass, plastic grocery and bread/produce bags and styrofoam, all items not currently accepted for recycling.

Meeting the 75 per cent diversion target would benefit the ratepayers of RDMW, which faces substantial debt service for each expansion phase needed at the local landfill. During last year’s budget discussions by the RDMW board, Donaghy noted a series of efficiencies — including recycling and composting of organic materials — have extended the life of the landfill but that its debt service still comprises a substantial portion of the budget.

As to whether either the Town of Port McNeill or the RDMW will bid for the new recycling contract, both Donaghy and Harvey shrugged.

“We just don’t know yet,” Harvey said during a brief recess in Friday’s webinar. “We’re here to find out more.”

The MMBC plan was submitted as a one-size-fits-all plan. But Donaghy and Harvey both picked up on concerns — and added costs — for rural communities that don’t necessarily impact cities in the Lower Mainland.

Donaghy submitted a question to Frieze asking whether, if a municipality declined the contract, it could then turn around and bid as a contractor.

“We face costs and challenges here in rural areas that the bigger cities don’t have,” Donaghy explained. “Bidding on a contract might give us a chance to negotiate some of that.”

The RDMW board will have a chance to discuss the issue face-to-face when Moira Walker, an MMBC consultant, is scheduled to meet with them here prior to the regular board meeting June 18, Donaghy said.

“Either way, the clock is ticking,” he added. “Realistically, we need to make a decision by July.”