Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Fees announced for BC's controversial new recycling program

The industry group enabled by the BC Liberal government to privatize the collection and recycling of printed paper and packaging next May quietly published its list of fees on its website last week.

Multi Material B.C.'s 2014 Fee Schedule document shows per kilogram fees for 51 types of printed paper (newsprint, magazines and catalogues, telephone books and other printed paper) and packaging (cardboard, plastic and glass bottles, aluminum cans and steel packaging). Fees range from 20 cents a kilogram for newsprint to 70 cents a kilogram for plastic laminates.

The fees are supposed to be an incentive for the industry to reduce the type, size and weight of printed paper and packaging at the front end. Just a year after the unpopular Harmonized Sales Tax was phased-out, however, there will be nothing to stop businesses from passing on a hidden cost to consumers in the form of higher prices at the back end next May.

"If you were going to try and have every business put it on every receipt, I can imagine the administrative burden would be quite great," Environment Minister Mary Polak told The Tyee in October.

The rates are substantially higher than Ontario, where the fee for newsprint is 4.18 cents a kilogram and plastic laminates are 22.45 cents a kilogram. B.C. will be the fourth province with such a program after Ontario (2003), Quebec (2005) and Manitoba (2010).

In an October report, the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance called B.C. the "first true" extended producer responsibility program for printed paper and packaging in Canada because "industry is required to pay the full cost for contract managing a full reverse supply chain."

MMBC is projecting 185,491 tonnes of recycling in 2014. The total projected cost of the program for B.C. in year one, including supply chain, commodity revenues, program management and startup and working capital accumulation, is $84.387 million.

The CSSA report said B.C.'s would be the "highest cost per tonne program."

"B.C. fee rates on average are expected to be some 3.5 times higher than Ontario given B.C. is a full EPR program with a much higher target recycling rate than any of the eastern provinces (75 per cent vs. 60 per cent Ontario), higher cost supply chain costs due to a number of factors including geography, population density and carbon taxes," said the report. "B.C. also loses out on economies of scale and commodity revenues due to the existence of a comprehensive deposit system for beverage packaging that runs parallel to the MMBC PPP curbside program."

MMBC plans to provide recycling services to 78 per cent of B.C. households, which is 15 per cent to 17 per cent less than Manitoba and Ontario, respectively.

"As more stewards join our plan increasing the reported tonnage supplied, MMBC will be able to buy more PPP tonnes from collectors and expand its accessibility to greater numbers of B.C. households."

Ontario has been at it for a decade and the report said there is a trend in that province toward lighter-weight packaging that is less recyclable.

"Newspapers that make up the bulk of the printed paper category by weight continue to diminish in size as digitization replaces physical formats," the report said. "The prevalence of printed paper with recycling rates approximating 80% has declined by almost 58,000 tonnes over the last decade, while plastics generation with a much more modest recycling rate of 27% has increased by almost 36,000 tonnes over the same period."

MMBC published the long-awaited fee schedule on the Friday afternoon of the Remembrance Day long weekend.

Anna Lilly of FleishmanHillard, the public relations agency working for MMBC, responded to a Friday morning query from The Tyee with a 3:34 p.m. email notification that MMBC "has just published an update to its website."

"This information was just recently confirmed and presented to stewards (members of MMBC) over the past week," Lilly wrote. The MMBC Fee Schedule document shows no date, but the underlying information indicates the PDF was created Nov. 8 at 1:04 p.m. and modified at 2:08 p.m. MMBC did not issue a news release about the publication of the fee schedule.

Governments and their corporate partners often publish controversial policy, spending or taxation changes on Friday afternoons in a practise that has become known as "take out the trash Friday." Citizens are generally looking ahead to the weekend and the media outlets are not fully staffed.

Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus