Business organizations are asking the B.C. government to “push the pause button” on the May 19 rollout of a major new initiative that puts the onus on industry to fund the cost of collecting and recycling packaging and printed paper.
“Let’s take a time out,” urged Mike Klassen, director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “I don’t think the program will work. Why would you want to throw 3,000 B.C. enterprises under the bus? This will kill jobs and potentially shut some businesses down.”
But on Feb. 4, the Ministry of Environment announced that small businesses would be exempt from any recycling costs associated with the program if they have: annual gross revenues of less than $1 million; less than one tonne of packaging and printed paper supplied to B.C. residents; or operate as a single outlet not supplied by or operated as part of a franchise or chain.
The province says the program — operated by the industry group, Multi-Material BC (MMBC) — will increase the recycling rate of packaging and printed paper to 75 per cent from 52 per cent while providing curbside, blue-box collection to 1.25 million B.C. households. Fewer than 3,000 businesses out of more than 385,000 provincewide — less than one per cent — will be affected by the program, the government added.
Industry organizations are already involved in the management of other stewardship programs in the province by charging a special fee at the point of purchase to cover the cost of recycling electronics.
The new paper and packaging program charges those companies that produce the products, with the largest 150 companies footing an estimated 80 per cent of the bill.
John Winter, president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, applauded the changes, saying the “government is truly listening to B.C. businesses and taking action to protect our business community from burdensome fees and red tape.”
But Klassen says plenty of companies are still unhappy.
“The government can’t wash its hands and think it’s fixed,” he said. “There’s far too many businesses being impacted. The legislation will be devastating for small businesses and their employees.”
Some big-business sectors are also concerned. The daily and community newspaper sector fears it could cost more than $10 million to conform with the new program based on the volume of newsprint, says Peter Kvarnstrom, chairman of the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA).
MMBC, which would charge newspaper fees of 20 cents per kilogram, puts the figure closer to $6 million. Not-for-profit MMBC is part of the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance.
Kvarnstrom said while “we all own a piece of the solution” to the recycling issue, the current proposal represents an “intolerable” tax shift onto an industry “with its fair share of challenges.”
At the moment, the CNA has not signed on with MMBC despite it being “very late in the game,” he said. “The province has a problem on its hands, and it’s not just newspapers. We’re one of a number of groups with very serious concerns.”
MMBC managing director Allen Langdon said the program has been three years in the planning and contracts have been signed with 170 collectors, including 67 local governments, totalling 185,000 tonnes of materially annually. Metro Vancouver (but not Delta and Langley Township) is on board, along with Greater Victoria’s Capital Regional District.