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“There is no way we’ll be able to provide service across the province in our first year,” says Allen Langdon, managing director of MMBC, “and I don’t think we ever thought we would. I think the goal was to establish a base line of service in the first year, and then look to expand that in year two.”
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By Korie Marshall

Multi-Material BC (MMBC) announced last week they will be providing curbside recycling collection services to 88 communities, with service to Prince George beginning in September. But MMBC won’t be providing any services – not even drop-depot services – to Valemount, McBride and Mackenzie.

New provincial recycling regulations come into effect in May that will allow BC residents to recycle new categories of packaging, and requires the producers of packaging and printed paper (PPP) to pay for a stewardship plan to keep those products out of the landfills. The program is one of more than 20 Extended Producer Responsibility programs in BC that have industry assume responsibility for the end-of-life management of items like beverage containers, electronics, tires and batteries.

MMBC is a non-profit, industry-led and financed association created to manage the stewardship plan for the PPP industry, but it is not yet able to offer service everywhere.

“We’re by no means providing service across the province,” says Allen Langdon, managing director of MMBC. “There is no way we’ll be able to provide service across the province in our first year, and I don’t think we ever thought we would. I think the goal was to establish a base line of service in the first year, and then look to expand that in year two.”

Langdon says MMBC offered communities an incentive to provide curbside recycling, and communities that declined were included in public requests for proposals to offer recycling services. He says MMBC was not able to award any contracts through that process for some areas.

Valemount, McBride, Mackenzie and the Regional District of Fraser Fort George all declined MMBC’s incentive offer last fall, citing high costs and substantial risk of financial penalties to the villages and district. Langdon says MMBC issued a request for proposals to provide drop-depot services as well, since the Regional District did not accept their incentive offer for drop-depot services either. He says it is now up to the communities to decide what they’d like to do, and if they’d like to look at future opportunities that might become available.

After last week’s board meeting, the Regional District announced they are looking at options to determine what role it will continue to play in delivering residential recycling services as the province transitions to the new program. Right now, the Regional District operates 17 drop depots throughout the region, accepting newspaper, mixed paper products, milk jugs and cans. Their contract with Cascades Recovery is set to expire on May 31. The board has asked for information about the possibility of extending the contract through to September 2014, and what options are available to communities that will not be receiving services from MMBC.

Langdon says MMBC’s focus is on residential collection because that is what the recycling regulation requires. He says there is currently no regulatory framework to have MMBC represent commercial or industrial recycling collection, unless government changes the regulation, which would also require changes to how the stewardship program is funded.

What will that mean for the Regional District’s current recycling depots in Valmeount, Dunster and McBride? Andru McCracken, Mayor of Valemount and Regional Director, says “things are changing, and there is uncertainty; it’s not the fault of the Regional District by any means.”

McCracken says the Regional District is really not interested in funding recycling collection that is supposed to be the responsibility of the producers, and he thinks it is MMBC’s responsibility to provide continued residential recycling options. But he says industrial and commercial recycling is different. Businesses aren’t buying the same volume of consumer products that will have the fees for the program built into them, and MMBC is not interested in recycling for those businesses, because they haven’t paid into the stewardship program.

“If you look at our cardboard recycling,” says McCracken of Valemount’s service to local businesses. “We collect the cardboard since we have the machine anyway, and the businesses pay us.” If the Regional District stops collecting cardboard at the Valemount Transfer Station, the Village will have no place to bring that cardboard. McCracken says he hopes there will still be that opportunity for local businesses to recycle, but ultimately, introducing a blue box recycling program to 70,000 residents in Prince George has to be good for the environment. He says it has to open up more recycling opportunities that will – hopefully – be open to Valemount and McBride.

Sheree Gable, spokesperson for Encorp Pacific and Return It depots which handle beverage containers and electronics, says the new regulations won’t affect the Return It depots, as MMBC is its own separate steward program.