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The Board of the Fraser-Fort George Regional District has voted to extend its multi-material recycling contract into at least 2015. The decision means rural communities will continue to have access to current recycling collection services, while the Regional District steps up efforts to lobby for improvements in stewardship programs, but it will cost rural residents more come the new year.

New provincial regulations for recycling of packaging and printed paper came into effect on May 19. The regulation is meant to shift the cost of disposal of things like plastic film wrap, foam packaging, aluminum foil and paper to the producers. One of the goals of the regulation is that paying for disposal of the waste should be good incentive to produce less waste.

Multi-Material BC, an industry-led and industry-financed organization set up to manage the stewardship of these products, will be providing blue box collection services to single family residents in Prince George starting in September. However the provincial regulation does not require MMBC to provide service to small communities like Valemount, McBride and Mackenzie, or any of the rural areas within the district.

The Board had been considering three options: #1) ceasing their own collection of milk jugs, cans, paper and cardboard on May 19th; #2) continuing to provide drop depot services throughout the region until September when Prince George’s curbside collection begins; or #3) continuing to provide drop depot services throughout the region until May 15, when the contract with Cascades Recovery would come up for renewal.

The Board voted for the third option, which includes a revamp of the current recycling program to include more residential plastics, as well as cost savings from Cascades in the revamped contract. It will also mean recycling options could be expanded in the region by moving collection bins no longer needed in the city to rural areas that don’t currently have collection bins. This will assist in increasing waste diversion, an objective of the Regional Solid Waste Management Plan, says a report to the Board.

However the extension will only be funded as a region-wide service until December 31, 2014. After that, it will be a sub-regional service, with the City of Prince George not be paying into the service, says a statement from Renee McClosky, spokesperson for the district.

“All I needed was breathing room so we could restructure funding,” says Terry Burgess, Director for Area G. Burgess had been concerned the city directors would use their weighted vote on money matters to discontinue recycling services to the rural areas.

“It has become evident to all of us how important it (recycling) is to our communities,” said Valemount Mayor Andru McCracken of. “That means it’s a project we should fund.” He says his concern had been how much it would have cost residents, especially with Prince George not paying into the shared service.

The report to the Committee of the Whole on May 15 estimates the expanded recycling will direct 800 tonnes of multi-material out of the landfills for the rest of 2014, which means a savings in hauling and tipping fees, and in life of the landfills. It is estimated the extended contract with Cascades Recovery will cost $435,000 between June and December, and an additional $170,000 between January and May 2015. It is estimated it will save a total of $23,900 in transfer station hauling and $15,600 in rural transfer station tipping fees. The estimated total cost of the program from January to May, when Prince George will not be funding it, is $145,900.

One disadvantage of the third option listed in the report to the Board is that taxpayers and consumers will now be paying twice for the service (since the cost of disposal will now be build into the cost of products). The other disadvantage listed is that there will be no “gap” in service to the rural communities that could be used to motivate the province to improve stewardship programs.

Ken Starchuk of Area H told the Goat earlier this month he hoped the third option would give the district time to assess other options, and to put further pressure on the provincial government to improve the services offered to rural communities like Valemount, McBride and Mackenzie.