Business

Newspapers ramp up recycle fee battle

Front-end recycling fees will soon be applied to businesses that produce packaging and printed paper, a move that will cost newspapers $6 million across the province, - Leader file photo
Front-end recycling fees will soon be applied to businesses that produce packaging and printed paper, a move that will cost newspapers $6 million across the province,
— image credit: Leader file photo

Imminent changes to B.C. recycling rules could financially cripple local newspapers, says the president of the B.C. Yukon Community Newspaper Association (BCYCNA).

Front-end recycling fees will soon be applied to businesses that produce packaging and printed paper, a move that will cost newspapers $6 million across the province, said Hugh Nicholson, BCYCNA director.

"Newspapers are kind of the unique product in all this," said Nicholson, a Nanaimo-based publisher with Glacier Media. "We’re not packaging, like Styrofoam or plastics … and we shouldn’t be lumped in with packaging companies."

On May 19, industrial stewardship group Multi Material B.C. (MMBC) will assume responsibility for curbside collection and processing of containers and printed paper.

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.

He said B.C.’s successful container deposit system also means there’s less recyclable material left here for container stewards to collect and sell, so fees have to be higher to cover the system costs.

Newspaper owners can opt out of the program, but must then develop their own recycling measures. So far, newspapers have chosen the latter option while lobbying the province to re-examine the changes.

"We’re talking to some potential partners right now, but we’re optimistic the government will listen not only to ourselves, but to many businesses and municipalities. There’s a lot of fear about what will happen to recycling," Nicholson said.

He said the MMBC recycling fees threaten to cost jobs and intensify the financial pressure on newspapers, but requests to sit down with provincial ministers have so far gone unmet.

Victoria resident John Hungar, a retired newspaper circulation manager, said he's concerned the January closure of the Kamloops Daily News may be the start of a trend if the province doesn’t allow newspapers an exemption from recycling fees.

"People my age in particular like to read the paper," Hungar said. "There are some on the verge of closing and I fear these fees could be a strikeout."

Most newspapers in B.C. are owned by Glacier, Black Press and Postmedia, although independent papers still exist and would likely be hit hardest by the changes, Nicholson said.

The Canadian Community Newspaper Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses and several other organizations are now ramping up a campaign, rethinkitbc.ca, to convince the province to reconsider its recycling regulations.

"B.C. has one of the best recycling plans in the country," Nicholson said.

"It appears to be working very well, now government has decided for whatever reason to turn this over to private industry with very little information about where our recycling will end up. But we think this is a solution looking for a problem."

– with files from Jeff Nagel, Black Press

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