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B.C. recycling program on track to start next spring

A man moves a recycling dumpster in Richmond, B.C. The province is preparing to launch an innovative recycling program for packaging and printed paper.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Despite protests by some municipalities that the costs are not clearly defined, British Columbia appears to be taking the final steps in launching the first program of its kind in North America for recycling packaging and printed paper.

As the deadline for municipalities to sign up for the new program approached on Monday, Allen Langdon, managing director of Multi-Material B.C. (MMBC), said the $110-million project has won wide support provincially and should go into operation next spring.

"I think things look good," said Mr. Langdon, whose non-profit group was founded by the paper and packaging industries to implement the program. "We are on track to launch the first 100 per cent fully financed, industry-run program for printed and paper packaging in the country on May 19. That's a pretty exciting development."

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The program is aimed at increasing the amount of paper and packaging that is recycled in B.C. Municipalities can pick up and recycle the paper themselves in return for a financial incentive, have the MMBC do it, or opt out.

Mr. Langdon said the program is advancing on schedule, although it has "hit a few bumps in the road" including a last-minute motion that will come forward this week at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.

The emergency motion that is to be debated at the UBCM on Thursday calls for a 90-day delay in implementing contracts between municipalities and MMBC.

Four municipalities – Smithers, New Westminster, North Vancouver and Port Moody – proposed the delay, citing "the lack of information, the financial risks of this program to local governments and the short time frame presented to local governments to consider the offer."

But Mr. Langdon said municipalities, including Vancouver, that represent two-thirds of the households in B.C. are already on board.

The program aims to increase the amount of printed and paper packaging that is recycled in B.C. to 75 per cent from about 50 per cent.

Mr. Langdon said the motion was not expected, but the MMBC has agreed to give municipalities more time to consider the issue.

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"For those that need additional time, we're not going to close the door," he said. "We'll continue to meet and have discussions with those groups to try and reach resolution and bring them in to the program at a later date."

An industry-run and funded paper recycling program has been planned since 2011, when provincial regulations were changed to require companies that produce paper products to be members of an approved program to recycle the material.

In April, the provincial government's Environmental Standards Branch approved the MMBC plan, and since then the organization has been in discussions with local governments.

Taylor Bachrach, mayor of Smithers, said his small town sees an opportunity to improve services, but is worried about hidden costs.

"I think one of the broad issues that a lot of communities across the province are feeling is that the financial incentive is not adequate to pay for the real cost of delivering the service," he said.

However, he said the program offers Smithers a chance to start curbside recycling, which until now it could not afford.

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"This is an opportunity to bring a higher level of service to our community, which is something people have been calling for, for a long time," he said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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