The Regional District of Central Kootenay remains upset at the way a new industry-led recycling system has been rolled out.
Their latest irritant was a letter from Environment Minister Mary Polak, who stated in part: “I understand your region did not execute an agreement with Multi-Material BC by the November 30 deadline but have since expressed interest in entering into a collection contract.”
East Shore director Garry Jackman said his understanding was there were two sign-up deadlines, and the regional district met the second one. “We thought we’re in and we’re disappointed we’re not,” he said. “This letter makes it sound like we missed the boat, whereas we did have an interim agreement.” Jackman asked that they “remind [Polak] there was more to the story. This is not a good way to leave it.”
The regional district originally balked at accepting financial incentives from Multi-Material BC to provide recycling services, concerned security and fencing requirements for depots was too onerous and the money provided wouldn’t cover their costs.
The board later relented after learning the number of rural depots might be drastically reduced — only to be told they were too late for 2014. The status quo will be maintained for at least a year at a cost of around $1 million. Several regional district member municipalities, however, including Nelson, Castlegar, Nakusp, and Kaslo have signed agreements to subsidize the cost of curbside pickup.
Chair John Kettle called the program “poorly-thought out” and “undersubscribed” by producers who bear the costs. “[Government] ministers agree privately it’s not their finest hour, but they’re stuck with it and they’re going to close ranks and say ‘Everyone get on board,’” he said.
Kettle raised the subject last year with Polak when she visited the area in the wake of the Lemon Creek fuel spill and said he’s optimistic changes are on the way.
“Those of us in rural communities need a better program. My gut feeling is they’re looking very hard at coming out with some good news because they realize they’ve got a serious problem.”
Nelson mayor John Dooley said while he agreed the program was not rolled out well, making producers pay was “an excellent idea.”
“Our focus to date has been on the ministry’s challenges. We need to start focusing on the people who haven’t bought into it, and that’s some of the manufacturers and producers,” he said. “Our strategy can’t simply be that the ministry got it wrong. We need to try to bring people onside.”
New Denver mayor Ann Bunka said she wants a list of non-compliers publicized and suggested the public has a right to boycott them.
Rural Nelson director Ramona Faust said one “obvious stumbling block” is BC newspaper producers, who say the program would cost them millions each year and could result in job losses. “They’re lobbying hard and have some valid points,” she said. “I don’t know how we get over that.”
Newspapers had a deal to make their contribution through in-kind advertising, but Multi-Material BC later pressed for cash.
Silverton director Leah Main insisted it was not just about producers, but the legislation itself and the way it’s being applied: “It does not address small municipalities and rural areas. Why don’t they just pay us to continue doing what we’re already doing well?”
Rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham agreed: “We may not get full reimbursement but we’ll have a program that saves taxpayers money and has the level of recycling we already enjoy.”
The new system is set to take effect May 19 but business opponents are planning a court challenge, arguing in part they’re unfairly compelled to pay far higher fees than a similar system in Ontario.
— With files from Jeff Nagel