All of the Regional District of Central Kootenay's rural recycling depots will continue to operate for another year

All of the Regional District of Central Kootenay's rural recycling depots will continue to operate for another year

Status quo for rural recycling in RDCK

An industry stewardship group won’t be able to take over rural recycling in the Regional District of Central Kootenay before 2015.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay will continue to provide rural recycling for at least a year after an industry stewardship group told them it won’t be able to take over until 2015 at the earliest.

Multi Material BC is expected to assume responsibility for recycling packaging and paper starting in May. It has reached agreements with 165 municipalities, regional districts, First Nations, non-profits, and private sector companies, covering over 1.25 million BC households — including Nelson, Kaslo, Nakusp, Castlegar, and rural areas around Castlegar, where curbside recycling will be provided.

However, the RDCK initially balked at financial incentives to collect materials on Multi Material BC’s behalf, saying the offer lacked key information and wouldn’t cover their costs. In November they changed their mind, fearing the region’s 27 rural recycling depots could be reduced to as few as two. By agreeing to keep a hand in recycling, the regional district hoped to maintain 10 to 15 depots that meet Multi-Material BC’s security requirements or could easily be converted.

But while the board believed it met the deadline to sign up, Multi-Material BC now says it won’t be able to cover the RDCK this year, and appears only to have agreements with applicants who signed up by an earlier deadline.

“While we made every effort to be able to include the RDCK when the program launches in May, we do not have any further capacity in the program this year and have placed them on a waiting list for future opportunities,” Multi-Material BC communications manager Sarah Stephen explained in an email.

A frustrated RDCK chair John Kettle said his understanding is that a number of producers aren’t participating, resulting in insufficient funds to support the program this year. (Small businesses were recently exempted, but it’s not clear if this is the issue.)

“They didn’t give a good explanation other than it looks like there’s not enough folks in the program from the producers’ side to make it work financially,” Kettle said. “To me that’s not satisfactory.”

Kettle said the regional district will keep providing rural recycling, staving off any depot closures for now. “It’s not a tax increase, but it could have been a million dollar tax decrease if we had been able to sign up for the program. They would have taken over responsibility for recycling and we wouldn’t have had to tax for it.”

Kettle said he doesn’t blame Multi Material BC so much as the producers themselves and called on environment minister Mary Polak to “use every weapon in her arsenal” to push them to support the program financially. “We’re not the only ones left hanging here,” he said. “I think this is really poorly administered.”

Multi Material BC said it will be “evaluating opportunities to expand our collection network annually” and remains committed to talking with interested local governments about including them.