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Business coalition rails against recycling policy change

Critics say the new policy gives control of recycling to corporations run primarily from Toronto.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

A coalition of business groups has banded together to fight pending changes to recycling regulations, saying the regime – to take effect in May – will result in hidden costs for consumers, push recycling contractors out of business and threaten an already beleaguered newspaper industry.

"Make no mistake about it – the new recycling policy will be catastrophic for British Columbia's newspapers, for our local businesses and it will do little to help our environment," Canadian Newspaper Association chairman Peter Kvarnstrom said Monday at a news conference. "The policy removes local control over recycling and hands it over to business executives, corporations – many of them multinational in scope – run primarily from Toronto."

Mr. Kvarnstrom, along with representatives from printing, agriculture, recycling and manufacturing groups, was speaking out in relation to changes scheduled to take effect in May. That's when Multi-Material B.C. – a not-for-profit agency incorporated in 2011 – will implement a program designed to shift the responsibility and cost of recycling materials such as tin cans, plastic milk jugs and newspapers from municipal governments to producers.

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Under the program, producers that sign up with MMBC will pay a volume-based fee to cover the costs of collecting and processing material.

For newspapers, that rate is 20 cents per kilogram – compared with about two cents in Manitoba and less than half a cent in Ontario, according to a backgrounder provided at the news conference.

"That group has threatened to impose massive new costs on newspapers – a cost that we simply cannot afford," Mr. Kvarnstrom said. "It will have an impact on every single newspaper in every single community of our province."

B.C. is the only province to shift the entire cost of recycling to producers, Mr. Kvarnstrom added. Estimates suggest the cost to newspapers could be as high as $14-million.

Lower costs in other provinces are a result of government subsidies, said Alan Langdon, managing director of MMBC. "So far they [newspapers] have asked MMBC to pay their costs, which would mean the other members of MMBC would subsidize the newspaper industry – which I don't think would be acceptable to our other members," Mr. Langdon said.

Agricultural operators, small business owners and recycling depots will also face higher costs and an increased regulatory burden as a result of the program, industry representatives said.

"The [recycling] industry has been built on the backs of independent business," said Corinne Atwood, executive director of the B.C. Bottle and Recycling Depot Association, which represents businesses that buy and sell recyclable beverage containers. "Now the government, we feel, is using regulation to knock competition out of that existing business."

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The group has launched a campaign called "Rethink it, B.C." that will feature advertisements and a website calling for the program to be put off so that it can be reconfigured.

Some changes have already been made. In February, the Ministry of Environment announced changes that would exempt some small businesses from recycling obligations. Exempt businesses include those that generate less than $1-million in revenue a year or supply less than one tonne of packaging and printed paper to B.C. residents.

The province says the program will save taxpayers money and allow more materials to be recycled, including plant pots and drink cups.

Local governments are eligible for an incentive fee if they sign on as collectors in the program. Some municipalities, notably Delta, have so far declined to join in the system.

The situation for small businesses is dire, said Mike Klassen, director of provincial affairs for B.C. with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. "The whole program rolls out in 10 weeks and half of businesses don't know they're supposed to comply," Mr. Klassen said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More


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