A recent editorial by the Centre for Civic Governance points out the success of recycling initiatives in British Columbia, and the leadership role of municipal governments – on behalf of their citizens – in establishing infrastructure and programs to continually increase the volume of material that is recycled in our province.

As the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of products and packaging sold into the marketplace in B.C., industry has also stepped up to increase recycling alongside governments. Under regulations established by the province, more than 20 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs, introduced over the past 20 years, have seen industry assume responsibility for end-of-life management of items such as beverage containers, electronics, paint, used oil, tires and batteries. The idea behind EPR is sensible: businesses should be responsible for recovering and recycling the products they supply into the B.C. marketplace.

In May 2014, a new program will be introduced as part of B.C.’s Recycling Regulation. The program will greatly expand EPR in British Columbia to include all printed paper and packaging material sold to residents. Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) is the not-for-profit organization formed by industry to manage a printed paper and packaging (PPP) recycling system that will cost industry approximately $110 million per year.

This is a positive development for local governments. As industry takes on the management of end-of-life paper and packaging, municipalities are relieved of a significant cost and administrative burden. The success of other EPR programs has proven that this industry responsibility model is not only cost effective, but also helps increase overall recycling performance.

After more than two years of planning and consultation with local governments, MMBC submitted a PPP stewardship plan to the provincial government. The plan, approved in April 2013, will build on existing collection infrastructure in BC communities and seek to continuously improve service and accessibility for residents. The MMBC program will also enable BC residents to recycle new categories of packaging that are not commonly included in current curbside or depot recycling programs. These materials include:

  • Gabletop containers (e.g. milk cartons)
  • Aerosol containers
  • Plant pots
  • Aluminum foil containers
  • Asceptic containers (e.g. soy milk and soup containers)
  • Plastic clamshell containers (commonly supplied by bakeries and delis)
  • Paper packaging coated with wax or plastic (e.g. milk and ice cream cartons)
  • Hot and cold drink cups

MMBC, recognizing the role of local governments in the delivery of PPP collection services, is offering financial incentives to local governments (and others) to collect PPP on MMBC’s behalf.  These incentives were calculated based on research into local government collection costs and are intended to reflect reasonable payment for services.

Local governments now have the opportunity to choose how they will engage with the PPP program based on what will work best for their individual communities. By accepting the incentives, local governments can continue to deliver service to their residents and can continue to be the first point of contact for residents’ questions about recycling services.  Or, if they prefer, MMBC will be responsible for directly providing collection services.

In order to effectively manage the program, MMBC is asking that local governments enter into contracts with MMBC as the basis for payment for services. The response has been excellent to date, with many local governments already opting in from across the province. Where municipalities or regional districts have expressed concerns, MMBC has engaged in further dialogue and recently amended our standard contract to clarify specific sections based on feedback from local governments.

In order that all parties – collectors, post-collection service providers, producers and MMBC – are ready to launch the new PPP program next May so that producers and MMBC can meet the requirements of the BC Recycling Regulation, MMBC has established a response deadline of September 16 for local governments (and other interested collectors) to either opt in or out of the program. This will enable MMBC and service providers to undertake the significant work involved in establishing the system in time for the regulated launch date.

Our program involves a shift in end-of-life management responsibility and costs to industry. We look forward to working with local governments to implement our program while meeting the ambitious target recovery rate.