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

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