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Businesses call for recycling rethink

Proposed recycling fees will ultimately cost the consumer. - File photo
Proposed recycling fees will ultimately cost the consumer.
— image credit: File photo

Local business associations are weighing in on the debate around impending recycling-system changes, as the implementation date draws near.

Officials with the Surrey Board of Trade and the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce say their primary concern is not where money for the Multi Material BC program is going, but rather, where it is coming from – consumers.

“I think the intent… is admirable, in terms of wanting to reduce waste, I mean, really, that’s what this is,” Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said Tuesday.

“But when you are talking about a program, managed by a separate entity, that is going to add significant costs to business, which will then off-load that cost to consumers, that is not acceptable. I just don’t think that the province has really thought this through. This is just not in the best interest of our economic health.”

The NDP is accusing the provincial government of handing over control of B.C.’s blue box recycling system to Toronto-based multinational executives who will be unaccountable while B.C. businesses and households pay higher costs.

Opposition small-business critic Lana Popham raised the issue of MMBC in the legislature Monday, calling on the province to change course before the agency’s new system for recycling packaging and printed paper takes effect May 19.

“If government doesn’t take a step back, B.C.’s recycling system is going to end up in a giant dumpster,” the Saanich South NDP MLA said. “The control of recycling should never have been outsourced to the large corporate interests based in Ontario and abroad. This is a profound failure. This program needs to be paused and the entire concept reconsidered.”

Popham’s comments follow the launch earlier this month of a campaign against MMBC by a coalition of business groups, including the newspaper industry, who say they can’t afford to pay high fees imposed under the new system.

MMBC is requesting 20 cents per kilogram to recycle newsprint, while similar services in Ontario cost less than one cent per kilogram.

MMBC managing director Allen Langdon said the fees fully finance the program and ensure service for multi-family apartments and rural depots, in contrast to Ontario’s more limited focus on single-family homes.

Cliff Annable, executive director of the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce, predicted job losses will also result.

“This will affect jobs,” said Annable. “Costs go up and owners have to lay off people, so workers lose their jobs.

“This is still a fragile economy, particularly in communities like South Surrey and the Semiahmoo Peninsula, or any border community. The amount of people that are going across the border to shop, even with the dollar where it is, people are still going (to the U.S.). Higher costs to companies here is going to do nothing to slow that down.”

Huberman said both organizations are saying no to the recycling program, as managed by Multi Material BC.

“There have been so many concerns, especially in the past week, that have been raised by companies that need to distribute paper for the marketing of their product. We are very concerned with the financial and administrative impact that this will have on, especially, our small- and medium-sized businesses,” she said.

Huberman acknowledged the response contradicts the official stance taken by the BC Chamber of Commerce.

“I know that the BC Chamber has indicated that they are very pleased with the amendments that the province made to small businesses to try to reduce the burden (of the new program), but that is not what we are hearing on the ground – neither of our organizations.”

Neither the Surrey Board of Trade, nor the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce are members of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

Huberman said that although the new program is slated to take effect in less than two months, there is still time to put a halt to the proceedings.

“It is never too late to do anything,” she said. “If a lot of noise is made, that makes a difference. The premier, she does have a history of paying attention to what people are saying. She doesn’t always listen, but in some cases she has, and she has reversed decisions. So it’s not too late to reverse this decision, one that is going to add costs to businesses and really hurt our economy.”

– with files from Jeff Nagel

and Daniel Palmer

 

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