The RMOW has chosen to opt into a provincially-governed recycling program that has rung the alarm bells for municipalities across B.C. ahead of its planned roll-out in 2014.
Multi Material BC (MMBC) is a not-for-profit organization that will become responsible for collecting and recycling all packaging and printed paper waste in the province beginning in May. The goal of the program, which is to be implemented with the provincial government’s direction, is to remove from municipalities the financial burden of collecting and processing packaging and paper waste, shifting the $110 million in annual costs to the producers of recycled goods, according to MMBC.
“From Whistler’s perspective, we are going to save money by entering into this program with MMBC, and there will also be better service here because more items will be recycled than what are currently being recycled, so we just don’t have the same concerns (as other municipalities),” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The plan drew criticism from local government leaders at last week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention, with concerns cited over potentially jeopardizing existing contracts with private waste service providers. As a result, officials passed a resolution at the conference demanding an additional 90 days to negotiate with MMBC before deciding whether to opt into the program or not.
"I recognize this wasn't done well," said Premier Christy Clark during a press conference Friday (Sept. 20), a day after the resolution was passed. "It's been far too bumpy a ride. There is a lot more work to be done.”
Some critics of the program have said it would cost too much in subsidies to provide existing levels of recycling in their communities. Other questions have been raised over the extensive fines that could be handed down for contaminated waste loads, and whether the financial incentives offered to municipalities by MMBC would even cover the costs of implementing the program.
“Municipalities have a couple of options: if they want to continue to provide (curbside waste pick-up), then we provide the incentives. If they want MMBC to do it, then we provide the service directly at no cost to the municipality, so those options are there,” said MMBC managing director Allen Langdon.
Of the responding local governments that currently collect garbage curbside, 45 per cent accepted the incentive to implement recycling collection for paper and packaging. Around 50 per cent declined the incentive, with the remaining municipalities opting to continue depot collection services.
With no curbside waste pick-up, Whistler stands to save $175,000 annually on transportation and processing costs, according to Wilhelm-Morden.
“We’re in a bit of a different situation from a lot of the other municipalities because we don’t have curbside pick-up, and that’s where municipalities were making submissions during the debate about the resolution, regarding (municipalities) already entering into contracts and how they are going to deal with what they’re already doing, and we just don’t have those concerns,” she said.
The new categories of packaging that Whistlerites will be able to recycle at the resort’s processing facilities as a result of the new program include aerosol containers; plant pots; plastic clamshell containers; hot and cold drink cups and aseptic containers.
Whistler’s mayor also noted that municipal staff has had some questions about how extensive the program will be, and are currently working directly with MMBC to address those issues.