Cities in revolt over new recycling costs

Cities across B.C. are concerned a new recycling agency that the provincial government has put in charge of blue box pick up.

  • Sep. 18, 2013 11:00 a.m.

Cities across B.C. are crying foul over the rollout of a new recycling agency that the provincial government has put in charge of blue box pick up.

Multi-Material B.C. (MMBC), an industry stewardship group made up of major retailers and producers, is set to take responsibility for collecting and recycling packaging of all sorts by next May as a result of new provincial regulations.

It has promised to let interested municipalities continue to run their own recycling operations by acting as contractor, if that’s what they prefer.

But the cities say the prices offered by MMBC are far too low to cover their costs and that other terms are unreasonable, starting with a take-it-or-leave-it signing deadline of Sept. 16.

“I’ve never seen a contract come through as one-sided as what they’ve done with this,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said.

“The idea you’re going to come in and replace our programs and take over recycling is out of line – most municipalities are really concerned about that.”

Cities fear they’ll lose money if they continue providing the service their residents expect under the pricing structure MMBC has offered for recyclables.

They can opt to decline a contract and MMBC will contract recycling pick up out as it sees fit, but the many mayors fear that.

The Lower Mainland mayors predict many cities will reject the deal as offered now and demand action from provincial government ministers at next week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, which opens on the day of MMBC’s deadline.

Prince George has already refused MMBC’s contract offer, as has Coquitlam, where Mayor Richard Stewart warned in a letter to Polak that “Coquitlam council is gravely concerned that no reputable collector would concede to these conditions and this would inevitably lead to an unacceptable degradation of the existing quality of service.”

One objection is MMBC’s requirement that loads of recyclables contain no more than three per cent contamination of other materials.

MMBC managing director Allen Langdon rejects claims the proposed contracts short-change cities on collection costs, adding programs in 23 cities were reviewed to determine fair pricing.

“We think those costs, based on our research, provide for compensation for an efficient and effective system,” Langdon said.

He said cities that don’t like how the system unfolds can terminate their contracts without penalty on six months notice, or opt for dispute resolution.

Langdon also defended the short notice for cities to sign up, saying timelines are tight to identify collectors and line up processors in time for a May 19 launch.

Note: District of Fort St. James mayor and council voted to reject the MMBC offer to take on recycling in Fort St. James at their latest council meeting last week, citing concerns over unansered questions and concerns over projected costs to taxpayers.

Jeff Nagel

Black Press