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Recycling subsidy means tax break for RDCK residents

Province steps in to fund newsprint recycling

Residents of the Regional District of Central Kootenay will be paying a lot less tax for their recycling service thanks to a new agreement between the provincial government and the newspaper industry.

Currently they pay in the range of $800,000 to $1 million per year.

Residents in most towns and cities in BC don’t have to pay for recycling services at all. It’s paid for by the producers of the waste products, who pay Recycle BC (formerly known as Multi-Material BC), which in turn picks up and processes the recycling. (That’s the way it’s done in Nelson, although that might not be obvious to residents because Recycle BC contracts the curbside pick-up and trucking back to the city.)

When the RDCK decided a couple of years ago that they would like their rural residents to be included in the program, Recycle BC said no, because they could not afford to take on any more clients. (But in 2013 the RDCK had been given the opportunity to join the program but declined, saying the offer lacked key information and wouldn’t cover their costs. In November, 2014, the regional district changed its mind and asked to join, but by then it was too late because Recycle BC said they had missed the deadline.)

This left residents in the rural RDCK, along with 29 other waitlisted communities in B.C. still paying to have their waste recycled.

Recycle BC said its financial shortfall is the result of one large producer of recyclable products — the newspaper industry — refusing to take part in the program despite provincial legislation that says they must. This robbed the program of millions of dollars, Recycle BC said.

A representative of the newspaper industry told the Star in 2016 that if forced to pay Recycle BC to recycle newsprint, they would have to shut down some newspapers.

“To pay that price would mean for, example in the West Kootenay, I would close three marginal small town newspapers, and curtail the number of copies that we put out,” said Rick O’Connor, the president of Black Press, which publishes six papers in the West Kootenay including the Star.

The RDCK has spent the past two years lobbying the provincial government to somehow force the newspaper industry on board.

Now the NDP government has come to the aid of the industry with $14 million over five years, consisting of $6 million in advertising rebates to newspapers and $8 million in subsidies to Recycle BC.

Until this announcement, Recycle B.C. had been concerned about “our members subsidizing the newspaper industry,” Recycle BC’s Allen Langdon told the Star.

(By “members” Langdon means individual companies that pay Recycle BC to recycle their products, including “consumer goods companies, fast food restaurants, banks, utilities, anyone supplying printed paper or packaging to the resident.”)

Now that his organization is getting a budget increase — not from the newspaper industry as it had hoped, but from the provincial government — it can go ahead and include more communities in its program.

Locally, the next step is a negotiation between Recycle BC and the RDCK about the logistics and location of recycling depots, and that has already started, according to Stuart Horn, the regional district’s CAO.

He said he hopes there is an agreement by early 2018 but can’t say when Recycle BC will actually take over the recycling costs from the RDCK, or what fraction of the costs that will involve.

This article was amended on November 27 to include the information in parentheses in paragraph four.

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