Richmond's recycling switch coming to a street near you

Workers sort out contaminants at Emterra Environmental
Workers sort out contaminants at Emterra Environmental's material recovery facility in Surrey. The plant is one of three that will process recyclables collected for Multi-Material BC.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

New grey recycling boxes will begin arriving on doorsteps of Richmond homes early next month as part of a major shift in curbside collection across B.C.

The city joins the Multi-Material B.C. program May 19. Contractor Sierra Waste Services will continue collecting recyclables from local homes, but the change means the materials will be handled by MMBC in Surrey.

Residents will be required to deposit glass in a new grey box, while an expanded list of recyclables can go into the blue box. All paper, including newsprint, will be placed in a single bag.

"We believe it's a good deal for the City of Richmond and for our residents," said Ted Townsend, city spokesperson. "This program provides net benefits to the city both economically and environmentally because it greatly increases the amount of materials that will be recycled and diverted from the landfill."

City hall is rolling out an information campaign ahead of the grey box and paper collection bag delivery.

The program offers a cost benefit to the city—approximately $1.27 million, according to a staff report—as more waste is recycled and diverted from the landfill.

Townsend said the program follows a pattern of shifting responsibility—from taxpayers to producers and consumers—of materials, such as with electronics and beverage containers.

But the switch isn't being made without concern.

A report at a council committee meeting April 24 noted MMBC is requiring Richmond bring recyclables to a site in Surrey near the Pattullo Bridge.

Richmond's trucks have been delivering to Urban Impact on Knox Way in East Richmond.

"The length of time that it takes to deliver materials to Surrey is going to drive our costs up considerably, which will reduce the net financial benefit," said Townsend, who noted the longer delivery time would likely mean Richmond would need to deploy more trucks to maintain the collection schedule.

Richmond is also facing up to $520,000 in startup costs, which include delivery of new glass collection boxes.

Meanwhile an alliance of business groups are demanding the province halt the planned launch of MMBC, an industry-led non-profit organization. At issue are new costs businesses are being forced to assume.

Last month the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and eight other associations launched a campaign to amplify the pressure on Victoria.

The federation's Mike Klassen predicted job losses and some business closures as a result of new regulations and fees.

"This is public policy run amok," he said. "We are asking British Columbians to talk to the B.C. government to push the pause button on its reckless and red tape-laden program."

B.C. Agriculture Council vice-chair Stan Vander Waal said farmers can't readily stop packaging strawberries and blueberries in plastic clamshells, because retailers insist that's what consumers want. He estimated new fees will cost his farm up to $100,000 per year.

Canadian Newspaper Association chairman Peter Kvarnstrom warned the the new system will be "catastrophic" to B.C. community and daily newspapers, resulting in job losses in an already challenged industry and reduced service to communities.

Newspapers say they face a $14-million-a-year bite out of their operations because of the 20 cents per kilogram they will pay on newsprint, compared to less than half a penny in Ontario.

MMBC's higher fees are because the organization fully finances the program and provides service for apartments and rural areas whereas Ontario has a more limited focus, according to managing director Allen Langdon. He added B.C.'s successful container deposit system means less recyclable material to collect and sell—so fees have to be higher to cover costs.

NDP small business critic Lana Popham has denounced MMBC as a "red tape monster" controlled by Ontario-based corporations and multinational firms that aren't sufficiently accountable to B.C. stakeholders.

But Small Business Minister Naomi Yamamoto has defended the program as one that provides incentive to producers to reduce packaging.

—with files from Jeff Nagel / Black Press


New recyclables collected curbside starting May 19

•Aerosol cans and caps (food items, air fresheners, shaving cream and hairspray)

•Microwavable bowls, cups and lids

•Paper food containers and cartons (ice cream containers, milk cartons)

•Paper drink cups and lids

•Plastic cold drink cups and lids

•Plastic containers, trays and caps (bakery containers, deli trays)

•Plastic and paper garden pots and trays

•Spiral-wound paper cans and lids (frozen juice, potato chips, nuts)

*Source: City of Richmond

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