By Korie Marshall

What recycling will look like in the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George come May is still unclear, but small businesses will be exempt from the red tape of the new recycling requirements.

Under BC’s new Recycling Regulation, producers of packaging and printed paper are required to have stewardship programs for recycling their products, things like drink cups, foil and plastic film packaging, polystyrene as well as paper products. It had even been argued that even municipalities would be considered “producers” because of things like flyers and information pamphlets they might produce, but most municipalities disagreed. The regulation comes into effect in May, and is intended to shift the cost of recycling from the taxpayer to industry.

Multi Material BC (MMBC) was created to help industry manage the recycling and reporting requirements. Its stewardship plan was approved by the Ministry of Environment in November 2012, and includes increasing collection service levels province wide, providing curbside (blue box) collection services to 1.25 million households in BC and increasing the provincial rate of recycling of packaging and printed paper from 52 per cent to 75.

Small businesses, however, brought a number of concerns to the province about the program’s implementation. Last fall the province requested MMBC consult with small businesses, and with help from the BC Chamber of Commerce they brought a policy back to the government to eliminate administrative burden for small businesses.

The government’s new regulation will exempt small businesses from any reporting or recycling costs if they meet any of three criteria: they make under $1 million in annual revenues; they provide under one tonne of packaging or printed paper to BC residents; or they operate as a single point of sale and are not part of a franchise, chain or banner.

This means less than 3,000 businesses in BC will be affected by the program; less than one per cent of the 385,000 businesses in the province.

MMBC has also announced it will be offering a flat-fee option to businesses considered low-volume producers. Businesses producing between one and five tonnes can pay a pre-determined recycling fee of between $550 and $1,200 and will not have to provide detailed reporting. MMBC estimates a cost of $455 per tonne to manage packaging and printed paper in BC.

Estimates of the number of businesses in the local area affected by the recycling regulation or the new exemption were not available from the local Chambers of Commerce by press time.

Government staff and MMBC also held workshops throughout the province in November to provide clarity around local government options. In September, the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and its municipalities declined MMBC’s offers to provide collection and drop-depot recycling services on MMBC’s behalf.

“It is up to MMBC to define how they plan to deliver recycling services in our region,” says Renee McCloskey, spokesperson for the Regional District. She says they have not received any information about MMBC’s plans or the results of their tender for collection services.

A spokesperson for MMBC confirmed the municipalities in the Regional District were included in their request for proposals for curbside collection service. The submission deadline for the request for proposals was January 10. MMBC says no decisions have been made yet, and they cannot share information about how many proposals were received.

The Canada Wide Action Plan for Extended Producer Responsibility was released by the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment in 2009, calling for all jurisdictions to implement an Extended Producer Responsibility program for packaging and printed paper by 2015. The government says Extended Producer Responsibility programs are effective policy tools to shift the cost of management of products at their end-of-life from local governments and taxpayers to the producers and consumers of the products.

The new recycling program will come into effect on May 19, 2014.