Faced with the prospect of drastic reductions to rural recycling depots, the Regional District of Central Kootenay changed its mind Thursday about accepting industry incentives to continue providing the service.
In September, the board voted to decline a financial offer from industry stewardship group Multi-Material BC to collect printed paper and packaging on its behalf.
At the time, directors said key information was missing and the offer wouldn’t cover their costs. However, last week they agreed to take the money, even though some depot closures may still be inevitable.
“As long as we’re in the game we can continue to talk and negotiate,” said director Ron Mickel, who introduced the motion. “Once we’re out of the game, we’re out. Now we at least have some control and some return.”
The board was faced with a November 30 deadline to join the program. Otherwise, their next opportunity would have been in 2015.
When the cost of recycling paper and packaging shifts to industry next spring, Multi-Material BC will collect recycling fees charged to consumers and redistribute the money to local governments and contractors.
The regional district’s initial position would have seen it get out of recycling altogether and let Multi-Material BC decide the location and number of depots.
But directors heard Thursday that under Stewardship Association of BC guidelines, only communities of over 4,000 are required to have depots — and only within a 45-minute drive. Consequently, the current 27 depots across the regional district could have been reduced to as few as two.
Mickel predicted any public backlash would be directed at the regional district rather than industry. He said by agreeing to stay in the recycling business, they should be able to maintain 10 to 15 depots that currently meet Multi-Material BC’s security requirements or can be easily converted. The annual cost to taxpayers would be about $30,000 compared to $900,000 at present.
While Mickel was hopeful service could also be provided to communities with small depots, regional district environmental services manager Uli Wolf wasn’t so sure.
“We will certainly attempt to maintain as much of the current service level and lobby for further increases,” he said, “but there’s no doubt there will be a loss in service to some rural areas.”
Wolf added that some depots are on private property where fencing or staffing to meet the new requirements isn’t possible. Multi-Material BC’s collection contracts may also be an obstacle to maintaining the current depot system.
Wolf said they brought the matter back to the board after receiving more information about service standards and realizing some areas could be left in the lurch.
“Two depots in a region our size is absolutely not acceptable,” he said. “That is a huge risk and loss of service to our residents that we feel we cannot ignore simply to insist on our principles.”
The City of Nelson earlier accepted industry incentives to provide curbside recycling, and Multi-Material BC is seeking a contractor to provide curbside collection in and around Castlegar.