Where the City of Nelson said yes, the Regional District of Central Kootenay is offering a “qualified no.”
The board voted unanimously Thursday to reject financial incentives to collect printed paper and packaging on behalf of industry.
That was based on a staff recommendation suggesting key information is missing and the offer won’t pay for requirements to fence and staff existing recycling depots.
Presently most of the regional district’s 27 depots lack fencing, staffing, or both. It’s estimated upgrading and manning them would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — and some would close or see their hours reduced.
“We could not possibly operate that system with the incentives offered,” acting resource recovery manager Raymond Gaudart said. “If we accepted, we would simply be committing ourselves to a taxpayer subsidy which goes against the very principles of extended producer responsibility.”
However, Gaudart said residents presently receiving curbside pickup will continue to do so, whether from local government or private contractor.
When the cost of recycling printed paper and packaging shifts to industry next May, industry stewardship group Multi-Material BC will be in charge of collecting recycling fees from businesses and distributing the money to local governments and contractors.
Gaudart said by turning the offer down, they’re leaving it up to that agency to provide a depot system, but no one knows what it would look like.
“We don’t have details of what they consider reasonable access for our residents. You can’t commit yourself to a contract that hasn’t got the key terms. Saying no is the only answer given the information we have.”
Local governments have until Monday to decide — the same day the Union of BC Municipalities convention opens, with the new recycling scheme expected to be a hot-button topic. Nelson this week became one of the few so far to opt in, while others like Prince George and Coquitlam have said no, and still others remain on the fence.
“Rejection is leading us to a political solution,” said RDCK environmental services manager Uli Wolf. “To apply pressure and find critical mass saying what has been proposed so far is unacceptable. That’s the message we’re trying to deliver.”
Nakusp mayor Karen Hamling was concerned that by rejecting the offer they might risk reduced service or none at all. Wolf responded that Multi-Material BC couldn’t afford to neglect municipalities, but rural areas may be at risk: “I don’t think they can get away with saying a two-hour drive to do your recycling is acceptable. But one hour, maybe.“
Arrow Lakes director Paul Petersen asked what happens if some areas of the regional district buy in and others don’t. He was told contracts may be tendered that cross government boundaries.
Nelson mayor John Dooley said he was in the awkward position of supporting the motion to refuse the offer even though his city had just accepted it. “I feel obliged to support the regional district position at the same time we’re opting in,” he said. “The challenge is for the rural areas.”
Product stewardship is a good idea, Dooley added, but he wondered how a system being panned in Metro Vancouver, BC’s most densely populated regional district, could be feasible in our vast area.
New Denver mayor Anne Bunka, whose council has declined to participate, said they felt there couldn’t go it alone: “This reinforced our reluctance to agree to something with incomplete information and a contract heavily weighted against us.”
East Shore director Gary Jackman worried that saying yes would mean reduced service, increased costs, and a lot of uncertainty. “I’m happy to [say no]. Whether it’s political posturing or not, I think it’s the more ethical thing to do.”
Chair John Kettle said in turning down the offer, it was important to provide a “qualified no” and explain their rationale. He thinks if recycling becomes less convenient or more costly, it could result in more material going to the landfill.
— With files from Jeff Nagel, Surrey North Delta Leader