Industry stewardship key solution to waste

Recycling Council of B.C. says new stewardship system for blue box recyclables will be effective

The Recycling Council of B.C. would like to clarify some information published in Jeff Nagel’s Nov. 24 story titled Cities question package recycling plan.

First of all, the addition of Packaging and Printed Paper (PPP) as Schedule 5 of the Recycling Regulation does not affect beverage containers currently collected through a deposit-refund system. In fact the Ministry of Environment (MoE) held a full day public consultation on the beverage container program the day before Mr. Nagel’s story was published.

At that session, MoE staff clearly heard from the public and industry that the deposit system works. In the case of the beer industry, refillable bottles, the core of a deposit-return system, is an important part of its business model.

The one thing that has been made clear by industry regarding the soon-to-come PPP program, through a series of ongoing public engagement meetings held this fall, there is no intention for deposits or added fees. And while the program’s initial focus is residential, the intent is to phase in service to the institutional and commercial sectors within a few years.

As for concerns that what is collected may be shipped out of province, the Recycling Council would welcome the opportunity to develop sustainable jobs here in B.C. with the material collected through recycling. But the truth is that much of what is currently collected by municipalities leaves the province. Paper, newsprint, cardboard and metal prices are all based on international commodity prices and traded in a free market system.

How much is collected in municipal bluebox programs overall and where it goes is not accurately known as there has never been a comprehensive survey of recycling done in B.C. However, you can access a required-by-regulation annual report for each industry stewardship agency online with metrics that outline what and how much is collected and the end-of-life management process.

The number of programs regulated under the Recycling Regulation will grow over the next decade from the current dozen to more than 30. As more and more is shifted from taxpayer responsibility to industry and consumers, B.C.’s polluter-pay approach provides the best way to remove costs to local government and create the opportunity for a closed-loop zero-waste system.

If anything, municipalities should be trying to accelerate the introduction of industry stewardship programs so they can focus on issues such as organics management for which they will remain responsible.

Brock MacdonaldRecycling Council of B.C. executive director