Friday, September 21, 2012

Local Government Transition to EPR for Packaging - PART 3 of 3. Maintaining High Service Levels

PART 3.  Maintaining High Service Levels

Guest Blog by Raymond Gaudart & Alan Stanley

Raymond is the former Director of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, a Director of the Recycling Council of British Columbia, and a recently retired board member of Product Policy Institute.  Alan is Director of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and a Director and Past Chair of the Recycling Council of British Columbia.

Perhaps the most pressing concern for local governments currently providing packaging and printed paper recycling services is how they will guarantee uninterrupted service at the same levels that their citizens currently enjoy.

Among the various responses to this issue is some local governments requesting that the provincial government “force” stewards to use existing local government recycling services. An example of this is a recent City of Vancouver resolution demanding that the province “amend the Recycling Regulation to require that where local governments choose to provide recycling services to stewardship organizations that municipalities be fully compensated for those services”. Another example is a recommendation of a Union of BC Municipalities packaging and printed paper recycling working group that suggests a “right of first refusal” for local government for the provision of stewardship services.

A common theme in discussions regarding local government delivery of EPR programs is that some local government representatives feel that their programs are well established and effective with a touch of conceit that industry could not possibly run the programs as well as local government. With an issue as complex as this, there are numerous sub-themes including environmental performance, protection of turf, loss of control, fears of job losses, accountability etc. It is imprudent to pass judgement on the legitimacy of these concerns as each jurisdiction has different challenges.

Of great concern to the many jurisdictions, including RDKB, which sees the move to industry operated packaging and printed paper recycling as a rare and precious opportunity to repurpose their assets to other significant diversion programs such as organics and construction and demolition waste is that the demands from some local governments to remain “in the driver’s seat” may result in an ineffective hybrid program, where local government calls the shots on program design and delivery while industry pays. This would be contrary to the spirit of the recycling regulation that at its core gives stewards the freedom to design and deliver the most environmentally and economically effective programs.

Requiring the stewards to use existing, or legacy programs may severely hobble the design and operation of a province–wide program and simply replicate the patchwork situation that currently exists. A review of the Multi Materials BC report on the current programs across the province reveals that in many areas of the province, local government is doing a very poor job of diverting packaging and printed paper. What would result from an amendment to the recycling regulation that forces industry to fund poorly performing local government programs?

A valid counter to the point of setting the rules, getting out of the way and letting industry run the programs is that some existing EPR programs have provided poor levels of service across the province, particularly in rural areas, and the level of trust for something as significant as delivering packaging and printed paper recycling services is low. The result of poor EPR performance is often complaints to local government elected officials and staff demanding that they do something to correct the situation. In some underperforming EPR programs there is a clear lack of transparency and accountability, which can result, unfortunately, in missing the point that some EPR programs are performing very well. It is very frustrating to managers of the good EPR programs to learn that they are often lumped in with the bad actors, which can discredit the entire EPR policy direction.

These concerns can be addressed in a number of ways. The most important factor is that the packaging and printed paper stewardship plan must include more specific service level commitments than have been approved in some past plans. Also included in the plan should be a comprehensive description on how public complaints and queries will be handled. Space precludes a detailed listing of other measures that can be taken to insure adequate levels of service, but there are many ways to compel EPR programs to provide outstanding service and with a little imagination, it is easy to envision a very effective industry operated program. The highest value role for local government is to help define outstanding service and carefully review draft stewardship plans to insure that adequate service levels are properly defined and committed to with an emphasis on local knowledge of the various challenges that exist.

If the promise of the recycling regulation is to be achieved, it is important to avoid creating an unwieldy Frankenstein of mixed responsibilities and body parts that confuse and confound clear lines of accountability.

The Series
PART 1:    The BC Packaging Law and the Rural District of Kootenay Boundary
PART 2.    Shifting Public Funds to Composting
PART 3.    Maintaining High Service Levels

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Local Government Transition to EPR for Packaging - PART 2. Shifting Public Funds to Composting

PART 2.  Shifting Public Funds to Composting

Guest Blog by Raymond Gaudart & Alan Stanley

Raymond is the former Director of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, a Director of the Recycling Council of British Columbia, and a recently retired board member of Product Policy Institute.  Alan is Director of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and a Director and Past Chair of the Recycling Council of British Columbia.

As the time approaches for the transition to full extended producer responsibility for all packaging and printed paper in May, 2014 local governments must determine how they will adapt to the new reality.  No longer will they be legally or financially responsible for delivering recycling programs to their residents, as some have done for decades.  Essentially they are faced with two possible options, continue to deliver the service as a contractor to the new stewardship agency, Multi Material British Columbia (MMBC) if it is mutually agreeable, or simply leave it to MMBC to determine how services will be delivered.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) has decided on the latter course of action.  RDKB believes that true EPR should not involve local government in any aspect of stewardship program delivery.  To be involved constitutes an ongoing subsidy to industry since the true costs of being involved can never be completely quantified.  Consequently RDKB has already budgeted for the elimination of all recycling program costs for packaging and printed paper materials included in the provincial regulation, beginning in 2014.  Elected officials and their staff envision the $1.4 million presently allocated to recycling programs being shifted to the provision of organics collection and diversion, the next big step to achieving the Zero Waste goal RDKB adopted in 2000.

Shifting the resources to organics collection also resolves some of the other issues that the transition to EPR raises.  RDKB owns vehicles, collection containers and compactors and employs unionized staff to provide some aspects of the current recycling programs.  These resources can now be repurposed to achieve other waste elimination objectives without the issues that might have arisen had RDKB chosen to simply eliminate the expenditures from their budget.  The potential difficulties involved in selling off equipment and laying off unionized workers are avoided.

Those aspects of the recycling programs that have been delivered by contractors may either be taken on by MMBC or replaced by new arrangements suitable to the stewardship agency.  RDKB has for many years built provisions into its contracts that allow for the termination or transfer of contractual agreements in the event that a provincially mandated EPR program came into effect during the course of a contract.  This includes clauses in solid waste management facilities bylaws that effectively ban disposal of materials included in an approved EPR plan. With the three year lead time provided by the development of an EPR program by MMBC, most if not all contract issues will be resolved.

The remaining concern of RDKB is ensuring that the same or a better level of service than is currently being provided is maintained once MMBC takes over program delivery.  With 95% of its residents, some of whom live in rural areas, being able to access curbside recycling, a mechanism for monitoring EPR program delivery may still be necessary at least in the short term.  We will examine some monitoring options in the final segment of the story.


PART 1:    The BC Packaging Law and Rural District of Kootenay Boundary
PART 2.   Shifting Public Funds to Composting
PART 3.    Maintaining High Service Levels

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Local Government Transition to EPR for Packaging in Rural British Columbia, PART 1 OF 3

PART I.  The BC Packaging Law and the Rural District of Kootenay Boundary

Guest Blog by Raymond Gaudart & Alan Stanley
Raymond Gaudart

Raymond is the former Director of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, a Director of the Recycling Council of British Columbia, and a recently retired board member of Product Policy Institute.  
Alan is Director of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and a Director and Past Chair of the Recycling Council of British Columbia.
Alan Stanley

In May 2014 producers of packaging and printed paper will implement the results of a 3 year long consultation and planning exercise and take over full responsibility for the collection, transportation and processing of all residential recycling in the Province of British Columbia.  This will be the first program for packaging and printed paper with 100% producer responsibility in North America. While British Columbia already has EPR programs in place for twelve product categories, this is the first time that an industry operated program will take over programs that, in most instances, have been municipally funded and operated.  The challenges posed by this transition are substantial.  In this and the following segments we will discuss the transition as experienced by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), a largely rural area in south central BC []. 

In this segment we will set the stage by identifying the pertinent legislation, and describing RDKB, the existing program and its costs. In the second segment we will discuss some of the challenges both RDKB and Multi Material BC (the stewardship agency) will face and how RDKB plans to handle the transition.  In the third segment we will envision what things will look like in May 2014 and how RDKB will ensure that its residents continue to receive at least the level of service they have come to expect. 

The EPR program for packaging and printed paper was announced in May 2011 when Schedule 5 of the Recycling Regulation came into force.  The Recycling Regulation [] is BC’s framework legislation for all EPR programs.  It was enacted in 2004 pursuant to provisions of the Environmental Management Act.  The regulation rescinded previous product-focused legislation to bring all programs under the provisions of the new regulation.  The existence of the framework legislation allows government to add new product categories to the regulation without an act of the Legislature.  The province currently adds new product categories each year in an effort to meet Canada’s goal of EPR for 100% of manufactured discards by 2018 

RDKB (a Regional District is similar to a county) includes eight incorporated municipalities and five Electoral Areas (unincorporated areas) with a population of 30,742 spread over 8,096 square kilometres (3,125 square miles).  Two thirds of the population is clustered in the eastern 14% of the District’s area.  RDKB is a mountainous area that experiences hot summers and snowy winters.  Geography, climate and population density pose significant challenges to the operation of residential recycling programs. 

Nonetheless over 95% of residential premises, including single and multi-family dwellings, are serviced by curbside recycling pickup, either single stream blue bag collection or traditional blue box collection with curbside sorting for single-family dwellings or wheeled toters for multi-family dwellings. Additionally, some small businesses are serviced by a toter-based collection program with the balance of small businesses having access to drop-off depots. The materials collected in the blue box program are processed locally and shipped to markets in large population centres.  Blue bag materials are compacted and trucked between 125 and 250 kilometres for processing.  Collection is carried out by contractors while some transportation is done by RDKB staff.  All processing is done by contractors.

The existing recycling programs cost RDKB $1.4 million annually out of a total solid waste management budget of $4.1 million which includes funding for three regional landfills and nine transfer stations.  The overall funding comes 30% from taxation and 70% from tipping fees at disposal facilities owned by RDKB with the recycling programs using 100% of the taxation and about 7% of collected user fees.  There are no private disposal facilities in RDKB.

The Series
PART I:    The BC Packaging Law and the Rural District of Kootenay Boundary
PART II.   Shifting Public Funds to Composting
PART III.  Maintaining High Service Levels

Friday, September 14, 2012

Motivating Business Action to End Packaging Waste

Bill and I just returned from an incredible couple of days at the Sustainable Packaging Forum, where I was invited to speak to an audience of 250 sustainability executives from major consumer goods companies and packaging manufacturers on ending packaging waste.  I've attached my remarks below.

Sustainable Packaging Forum
Matt Prindiville, Product Policy Institute

Good afternoon, everyone.  It’s a real privilege and honor to be here with you today.  My name is Matt Prindiville, and I’m the Associate Director for the Product Policy Institute.  We are a national non-profit organization dedicated to mitigating the environmental impacts of products and packaging.  Over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of several key public policy campaigns that were all trying to do something that hadn’t been done before – to pass first-in-the-nation legislation to help pave the way for more sustainable products. 

Now I know what you’re probably thinking.  I would guess that the last thing you folks think of when you’re talking sustainable product innovation is the messy, and often ugly, business of policy-making in State Houses and in Congress.  And it’s true, that the incredible work you do every day to solve problems and make your companies and your products more sustainable yields huge environmental and social benefits. 

What’s also true is that some problems cannot be solved by one company working alone, or even loosely allied through trade associations.  These are problems that call for a shift in the way we do things for everyone involved, and it’s often these types of problems that are the most difficult to solve because it requires shifting from the landscape of the status quo, where the advantages and disadvantages are known and accounted for – to the landscape of the new paradigm, where the terrain is uncertain and the path is not clear, and that can be very scary; especially for big companies locked in fierce competition in a down economy.

The problem of packaging waste is one of those problems. 

Many of you know the statistics – packaging is about a third of the waste stream.   Over half of all consumer packaging winds up in the garbage.  If you take out corrugated cardboard, the recovery rate for consumer packaging falls to an abysmal 26%.  And it only gets worse with plastic, where only 12% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. 

And we all know where this stuff ends up – as roadside litter, dioxin emissions from incinerators, contaminated leachate from landfills, the unnecessary depletion of natural resources, marine debris that fouls our beaches and kills wildlife and leads to the toxic garbage patches around the world’s oceans, and as lost opportunities to grow American jobs at a time when we desperately need them.  By some estimates, the total value of wasted recyclable consumer packaging is around $11 billion each year.   This is a staggering waste of resources, financial, natural and human - and represents a complete failure of the market and our current recycling system to adequately address this problem.

So now, let’s flip the paradigm.  To use the language from this morning, let’s imagine a world without packaging waste, where all packaging is being reused, recycled or composted.  Imagine the impact on our environment, on our forests, oceans, and wildlife.  Imagine the impact on the economy, with potentially over a million new jobs created. Imagine the impact on your companies’ carbon footprint, and your customers’ happiness, loyalty and confidence in your products and your company.

How cool is it that you are one of the people helping to make this happen.  Right here today, sharing ideas together, strategizing together, making plans together is a part of how we’re making this happen.

So how do we get there?  How do we chart the path in order to create the future we all want?

A number of people, myself and my organization included, are rallying behind the concept of extended producer responsibility.  Why? 

Because projected deficits for local governments are around $100 billion for this year.  Because we don’t see local governments and city councilors – who mostly look at waste and recycling as a line item liability on the city budget – as leading us toward a system where packaging is designed to be reused and recycled, or where there is enough effective infrastructure to efficiently capture and process it into new products.

But you can.  You are the innovators.  You are the problem-solvers.  You are the folks that make our economy grow. 

And you are also deeply implicated in this problem, and I believe you have a moral imperative to solve it. 

So what’s needed?  For every big problem-solving campaign that I’ve worked on, it’s taken big, broad coalitions with strong capable leaders from every important constituency – business, public interest advocates, local officials, policy-makers and everyday people. 

We were told we were never going to get EPR for electronics, but the Electronics Takeback Coalition came together, and local government officials got involved, and then in 2003, Hewlett Packard and Dell stepped up, and it was a whole new ballgame.  And today, there are 24 EPR laws for electronics covering the vast majority of the nation’s population. 

We were told that state chemicals policy to drive the use of safer chemicals was a crazy idea, but then doctors, nurses, and scientists started showing up to testify, and when big companies started voicing support, we knew that something had dramatically changed.  And laws were passed in Maine, California and Washington, and I strongly believe that we will see a modernization of the Toxics Substances Control Act in the next Congress, regardless of which party is in power in Washington – because it’s the right thing to do, and because the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition is working with businesses, health care professionals and everyday citizens to make it happen.

And that is exactly what we’re doing with packaging waste.  My organization is working with campaign partners around the country to build a national movement to address packaging and product waste.  Called the CRADLE2 coalition, we are organizing state-based public interest groups to effectively educate policy makers, build business support and successfully campaign for EPR legislation.   And with Nestle Waters and other companies coming out in support of EPR for packaging, the landscape has changed… permanently.

We know this because the predictable signs of change are coming up.  You all know them.  What are some of the first signs of a paradigm shift?
·       Denial
·       Despair
·       Massive resistance
·       Pushback

And that’s OK.  These are all part of the creative process.  When they show up, you know something big is happening.  You also know that there are issues to work out.  Ideas and policies to refine.   No great work of social change or significant piece of public policy comes into being without resistance.  Its energy is often what motivates action, debate and compromise and is the necessary fuel for big ideas to come into existence.

And folks, we need big ideas.  We need them right now.  Because here are the results of non-action.  We see them every day.   This is not the theory of what will happen.  This is the absolute result of what we’ve been doing wrong for the past 50 years. 

You all gathered here today can help change this.  You can work to transform your companies to come together with public interest groups and policy makers to solve these problems.  Yes we’re going to have to think outside the box.  Yes, we’re going to have to be open to new ideas.  Yes, a part of change is resistance, but the resistance can motivate us.  It can energize us.  And it can lead us to solutions we haven’t thought of yet.

I believe the destination is worth it, and I also believe we’re assured to get there if folks like you get involved. 

Thank you for listening.