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Penticton man latest to call for rethink of recycling program
Penticton man Frank Conci is joining the growing chorus of B.C. business owners concerned about unknown implications of a new recycling program set to launch May 19.
Multi-Material B.C. is designed to shift the cost of recycling paper and packaging products away from taxpayers and towards the companies that produce them, but many questions remain.
“Here’s a piece of legislation coming down the tube that we’re going to be forced to respond to and we know nothing about,” said Conci, general manager of AC Motor Electric.
“It’s terrifying, especially when I find out there are $200,000 penalties for non-compliance.”
The B.C. government has estimated only about 3,000 small businesses will be forced to pay levies on the packaging they introduce into the marketplace.
Exclusions will apply to those that have annual revenue under $1 million, ship less than one tonne of packaging annually, or operate from a single location.
AC Motor Electric may be excluded on that final condition, but Conci can’t be certain until he’s seen the fine print, and he’s unsure how much packaging the company ships with electric motors and parts.
“None of the people I deal with have ever weighed their packaging. I don’t know how you’d go about doing it a cardboard box here, a cardboard box there,” he said. “That’s the kind of nightmare we’re looking at.”
Meanwhile, B.C. newspaper companies will have to pay MMBC a levy of 20 cents per kilogram of printed paper, expected to total in the range of $14 million annually.
“The reality is that there are going to be jobs lost. Not only at newspapers, but also at many small recycling organizations that are working in communities like Penticton,” said Canadian Newspaper Association chairman Peter Kvarnstrom.
He pointed out that MMBC is headquartered in Ontario and its board includes representatives of major retailers who may seek to look after their own interests first.
“I’m quite sure that what will happen is you as a consumer will pay through increased prices at the till to cover their obligation,” Kvarnstrom said.
“In the newspaper industry that’s much more difficult because a lot of our newspapers are free distribution.”
Newspapers joined with other industry groups this month to launch #RethinkItBC, a campaign calling on the provincial government to delay implementation of the new program. That call was echoed this week by the B.C. New Democratic Party.
“If government doesn’t take a step back, B.C.’s recycling system is going to end up in a giant dumpster,” Opposition small business critic, Lana Popham, said in the legislature.
“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 said.
Local governments are also wary.
Like most of their peers, the City of Penticton and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen have reached deals with MMBC, which will provide incentives to cover the cost of recycling programs with existing contractors through 2016.
But the city still has some worries.
MMBC will require that less than three per cent of recyclables dropped off for sorting be contaminated with garbage or other material that has to be sent to a landfill.
The contamination rate in Penticton is currently in the range of five to six per cent.
“If we can’t get the contamination below three per cent there are fines of $5,000 per load, so that’s a huge concern for us,” said Mayor Garry Litke, who noted the deal with MMBC includes an option to tear up the agreement with 180 days’ notice.
“We’re going in with our eyes open and that’s why we’re keeping a very close eye on the escape clause if we start getting fined,” said Litke, “or if we see it’s not really that much of a savings to our taxpayer.”
Penticton MLA Dan Ashton said he’s aware of the concerns, but supports MMBC and the intent to shift the cost of recycling onto those responsible for producing the waste.
“There are some positive benefits and, yes, there are some bumps in the road,” he said, “but I know that government is continuing to work on solutions and I think that’s important.”