To my mind, there’s no more interesting story in the waste management business these days than developments related to British Columbia’s requirement to make industry responsible for the recycling of its printed-paper and packaging waste by May 2014 — materials currently managed by municipalities either in “blue box” recycling programs and drop-off centres, or landfilled.
Programs in which industry pays for the end-of-life management of its products — extended producer responsibility (EPR) — are gaining traction across Canada (and more tentatively in the US) for such things as household hazardous waste, fluorescent lightbulbs, scrap tires, used oil, and so on. BC is the only jurisdiction extending the list to “blue box”-type materials.
When implemented, BC will be (once again) a leader in waste reduction. The province was the first in North America to introduce mandatory deposits on soft-drink containers, and already has EPR-type programs for 12 product categories. The EPR program for packaging and printed paper was announced in May 2011 when Schedule 5 of BC’s Recycling Regulation came into force; it supports a federal goal of full EPR for manufactured discards by 2018.
The three-year consultation and planning process is (unsurprisingly) hitting some speed bumps.
One is from the members of the not-for-profit Multi Material BC, the agency established under the British Columbia Society Act that represents “stewards” whose materials will soon be subject to EPR. MMBC members include the trade associations for restaurants, retailers, newspapers, gro- cers and others.
People close to the process say the first steps towards establishing a program have faltered largely because the reps from the different asso- ciations are, for the most part, government affairs types and not experts in waste diversion program design or implementation. Other than asking the ministry for an extension to the November 19, 2012 deadline, MMBC has been silent about its intentions in developing a workable program.
Those cats are going to have to herd themselves into action before the deadline gets much closer.
Another speed bump has come from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), which circulated a policy paper on September 26 outlining various recommendations to members. The 10-page UBCM paper makes some important points about the transition to a new prov- ince-wide program, including the need for industry to maintain high service levels for residents, especially in rural areas. The UBCM states (rightfully) that municipalities should be financially compensated for materials that end up in municipal landfills. The group also wants EPR implemented in the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sec- tor, which generates much more waste than the residential sector.
But the union may be over-reaching when it asks for a “right of first refusal” for providing stewardship services. The UBCM states, “This option would minimize and/or prevent any disruption to existing services, employment and service contracts, and community expectations.” These are legitimate concerns, but miss the point of EPR.
Industry can, of course, choose to contract collection and/or recycling services to a municipality; but the “right of first refusal” sounds like a stakeholder group protecting its vested interests.
It’s in this context that a three-part article by Raymond Gaudart and Alan Stanley published in September by the Product Policy Institute (www.productpolicy.org) is intriguing. Gaudart is the former Director of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) — the position currently held by Stanley. (Both men have been involved with the Recycling Council of BC, and Gaudart is a former PPI board member.)
In their article, Gaudart and Stanley outline RDKB’s bold position, which is that “true EPR should not involve local government in any aspect of stewardship program delivery. To be involved constitutes an ongoing subsidy to industry since the true costs of being involved can never be completely quantified.” Consequently, the authors write, RDKB has already budgeted for the elimination of all recycling program costs for packaging and printed paper materials included in the provincial regulation, beginning in 2014.
“Elected officials and their staff envision the $1.4 million presently allocated to recycling programs being shifted to the provision of organics collection and diversion, the next big step to achieving the Zero Waste goal RDKB adopted in 2000,” they write.