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Recycling proposal could cost taxpayers plenty, says PoCo Mayor
Changes to B.C.’s recycling regulations that make producers of packaging responsible for the life cycle of their products could reduce the quality of municipal recycling collection services, says Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore.
While making producers of waste financially responsible for its disposal is a good plan, he said it will take control of collection away from municipalities and residents could end up paying more for an inferior service.
On Monday, both Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam councils considered an offer put forward by Multi Material BC, an organization run by packaging producers responsible for developing a stewardship plan for the materials. The cities are being asked to sign on to a financial incentive program by Sept. 16 that would see local governments act as a contractor for MMBC for its recycling collection services.
The terms are not negotiable and include penalties that Moore believes could end up costing municipal governments millions.
“We don’t know why they came out with such an aggressive contract,” Moore said. “It does seem really odd.”
One clause in the contract he points to regards contamination rates.
Currently, PoCo’s contract with its recycling processor allows for 10% contamination, a rate the MMBC contract would reduce to 3%. Failure to meet the 3% threshold would mean a $5,000 fine to the city for every truck over the contamination limit.
PoCo city staff estimate that could increase costs by as much as $3.1 million per year for the municipality.
Another issue with the financial incentives outlined in the MMBC offer is that they do not cover the complete cost of collection, a requirement under the new recycling rules. In PoCo, MMBC is offering $600,000 for a service that costs approximately $700,000 while in Coquitlam, staff estimate the offer would only pay for 75% of the total collection budget. The agreement does not include any price adjustments for inflation or fuel costs, and would give MMBC the right to ban residents from the program if they consistently fail to meet the 3% contamination limit.
Moore recognizes that MMBC is about to undertake the largest extended-producer responsibility program in Canada and that the organization may be unwilling to negotiate with individual municipalities. But some consultation with the Metro Vancouver board, which Moore chairs, could have easily been undertaken and would have given communities an opportunity to voice some of their concerns, he said.
Moore said he has had discussions with officials in municipalities across the Lower Mainland and British Columbia and said the feedback on the MMBC offer is mostly negative.
In cases where municipalities do not sign on to receive the financial incentives, MMBC will supersede local government and contract out its own collection services.
Cities have an option to opt out of the agreement, which would mean collection services would continue as before without the financial incentive.
During Monday night’s meeting, PoCo council voted in favour of a resolution asking to work with MMBC on a revised agreement.
Coquitlam councillors were equally cool to the MMBC offer, voting unanimously in favour of rejecting the financial incentives for recycling collection. Councillors will write the provincial minister of environment expressing their concerns about the proposal.
Mayor Richard Stewart said it is time for the province to step in and take charge of the process.
“MMBC’s proposal is a step backwards,” he said. “The province has to tell producers that this is unacceptable. This doesn’t meet the intent of the legislation and leaves a whole bunch of the responsibility and too much of the risk in the hands of municipal taxpayers.”
Allen Langdon, the managing director of MMBC, disputes some of the assertions made by Stewart and Moore.
He said his organization has been in constant contact with municipalities and is already in negotiations with several cities about contracting collection services.
Langdon took issue with the mayors’ comments that MMBC is not covering all of the costs of collection services, as mandated by the province. His organization has reviewed the recycling programs in 23 municipalities and determined that the incentives offered in their contract are fair.
“We will cover 100% of the costs of an efficient and effective system,” he said. “We feel we have provided a fair financial incentive.”
Langdon also noted that the $5,000 fines would be limited to 24 per year, meaning the total could not exceed $120,000.
He said the fines are meant to ensure producers are not on the hook for the costs of disposing of other kinds of recyclable materials.
“We understand there may be some issues but we are hoping collectors will work with us and show some initiative to get us down to that 3%,” he said.
He said producers are taking responsibility for their products and expect to pay between $250 and $300 million over the next five years for packaging and printed paper collection.