The B.C. government needs to recycle a waste-reduction program it plans to launch across the province May 19.
The Multi-MaterialsBC or MMBC program will shift responsibility for packaging and waste disposal from taxpayers and municipalities to industry producers, a laudable goal in line with the polluter-pay principle. It will also expand the list of recyclables.
But a worrying number of organizations and individual businesses have come forward, expressing serious reservations about the way the program is to be operated, with some warning the initiative will pose extreme hardship, even lead to the closure of their operations.
Change is challenging and often opposed by those to be affected but in this circumstance, in an already difficult business environment, the disquiet around MMBC ought to be carefully considered, especially since business owners say they have been neither adequately consulted nor informed about the complicated plan.
The scheme, in the planning stages since 2011, will be overseen by MMBC, and that is where the complaints start.
Opponents object to the formation of the group governing MMBC, comprising representatives of huge multinationals such as Loblaw Companies Ltd., Coca-Cola Co. and Procter and Gamble Co., with Canadian head offices in central Canada.
While MMBC has appointed a seven-member local advisory group, critics assert the organization is not sufficiently representative or accountable, even though it can levy hefty recycling fees and onerous fines in B.C.
They also balk at the complexity of the program, asserting it is mired in red tape. A regulation booklet mailed to B.C. businesses in December was a weighty 31 pages.
Additionally, opponents say the program threatens the viability of many small rural recyclers operating in the province.
Another objection is that recycling fees in B.C. are to be far higher than in Ontario, a serious issue given that businesses here already grapple with competitiveness challenges.
Environment Minister Mary Polak has noted businesses with less than $1 million in retail sales and those generating less than a tonne of material per year or operating out of a single retail outlet will be exempt from the program.
But that has failed to assuage the critics who this week asked for not a cancellation but a delay to the launch of the program so their concerns can be addressed.
The plea comes from nine business groups, among them the Canadian Federation of Independent Business; the B.C. Agricultural Council; the B.C. Landscape and Nursery Association; Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters; and the Waste Management Association of B.C.
They have launched a website: RethinkItBC.ca and a provincewide newspaper ad campaign.
It should be kept in mind, the business community, a strong generator of provincial taxes, tends not to be radical or obstructionist.
If so many in that community are so concerned, it behooves a responsive government to sit down with these groups and try to resolve the pointy edges around this new program.
A delay to the start of MMBC’s operations and further discussion are eminently reasonable demands.