The Regional District of Central Kootenay gave the Ministry of Environment’s Bob McDonald a strong message Thursday — they want the RDCK to be at the top of the waiting list for Multi Material BC (MMBC) services and they want their taxpayers’ money back.
McDonald, the manger of packing and print paper program implementation for the ministry, spoke to the board last week to update them on the MMBC program that the government legislated across the province on May 19.
He admitted the roll out of the program has been a problem and could not tell the board when RDCK residents can expect to receive services that are supposed to be funded by companies producing packaging and print material in what has been set up as an industry stewardship program.
The problem, according to McDonald, is many companies, large and small, have not paid their fees and the intended not-for-profit recycling program cannot function without them.
RDCK board chair John Kettle said the program has been an “incredible disservice” to the communities of the RDCK. MMBC is collecting the fees but jurisdictions are not seeing the services, he said.
“Our taxpayers are paying $1 million [for recycling] and other people in the province, specifically the Lower Mainland, are getting this for free.”
Area D director Andrew Shadrack held up a large blue bag full of recyclables as he said, “This is the recyclables not collected and is going into landfills and we are paying for it [to be recycled].”
“When will [the program] be rolled out?” he asked McDonald. “Taxpayers are paying at the till and the rural areas are subsidizing your areas. This puts rural areas at a disadvantage.”
Later Shadrack noted the Village of Kaslo has a curbside contract with MMBC. “But it does not include the material that should be recycled that I held up or Styrofoam,” he said. “The nearest depots and only depots that I am aware of in the Kootenays are in Cranbrook and Trail. I will keep saving the material until I can recycle it.”
Garry Jackman, Area A director said, “We can’t drag this out. Impose a penalty. The [producers] need a monetary incentive [through fining]. These are big companies.”
McDonald said the next step is to publicly publish the names of the companies who are not paying. “The public companies don’t want to be shamed,” he said.
McDonald later told the media the biggest problem with companies not paying their fees is the cumbersome enforcement process. The program allows for a parent company to pay for all their subsidiaries or there is the option that each sub company pay separately. The challenge has been notifying each company. He said many times smaller companies thought the parent company had paid the fees or vice versa. McDonald said the legislation allowed for this and for enforcement.
“The ministry process is slow but thorough,” he said. The follow up is arduous and has been a largest part of the biggest problem in the program roll out. The time it has taken to contact all the companies is huge. He said more often than not, when the companies are contacted, they usually pay up. Only non-payers will go on the list.
“We’d like a copy of that list,” said Kettle. “Seventy five hundred-plus shoppers makes a difference. We will draft another letter of this discussion and send it to the ministry.” He then urged McDonald to look at the books of MMBC. Earlier in the meeting, McDonald said MMBC is claiming lack of funds to offer the service east of the Lower Mainland yet when asked by a director if the Ministry of Environment had looked at MMBC’s books, McDonald said the ministry had not. “They are crying poverty yet they haven’t seen the books?” Kettle asked.
Walter Popoff, Area H director, suggested that “We be moved up in the queue. We want to be compensated while we’re waiting.”
Slocan director Hillary Elliott said a Slocan Valley business serving as a bottle depot has recently gotten notice that certain tetra paks are no longer recyclable. “Residents are paying twice and seeing a reduction of services,” she said.
In his final comments to McDonald, Kettle said, “We continue to tax $1 million to our taxpayers. Make sure we are at the top of the list. We’ve suffered through this and we want to be treated fairly. We are not second class citizens. We carry our share.”
He suggested that as the messenger, McDonald carry their comments back to the ministry.
Kettle said to media later that when the program was first presented to the RDCK, the requirements prohibited the RDCK from signing on. “They required we fence all our current depots and man them,” he said, at a cost that would have been prohibitive. He said 90 per cent of recyclables would have had to go into landfills as the MMBC program was not set up yet. “Ninety per cent is just not acceptable,” he said. “We had to make a tough decision. We’re not the wealthiest but we’re doing the right thing.”
This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser